North American cover art
|Release date(s)||Sega CD
Point and Click
|Distribution||1 x CD-ROM|
Panic! (known as SWITCH (スイッチ Suitchi?) in Japan) is a Puzzle Point and Click video game developed by Sega and Office I and published by Sega in Japan and Data East USA in North America for the Mega-CD, in collaboration with the Theatrical Group WAHAHA Hompo. It is released on April 23, 1993 in Japan, following a North American release in 1994 and late released for the PlayStation 2 in Japan on August 8, 2002. The game involves pressing numerous buttons in order to transverse a young boy, called Slap, or his dog, called Stick, through a complex labyrinth. It is one of the few Sega CD games that requires Sega Mega Mouse to operate.
During the intro, the game explains that a virus has infected the world's computer systems. Slap and his dog Stick (who has been sucked into his TV) must carry an antidote to the central computer to fix it. To this end, Slap and Stick must traverse a grid of levels, pushing buttons to advance.
Gameplay for Panic! is very minimalistic, and likely the reason of its very low sales figures. Each level is presented as a new area with a mechanical device of varying utility and sanity, and a set of buttons to press. Each button causes an animation and/or teleports Slap to another room. Sometimes the buttons are booby-trapped and cause the destruction of a variety of monuments, including famous ones (like The Great Wall of China) and not-so-famous ones (a grass hut or a doghouse). The grid also features a few game overs on the grid, marked by flashing skulls on the map. The buttons themselves have no indication on what they do unless pressed, which makes gameplay little more than trial and error: players who enjoy the animations might frustrate over constant teleporting. It is also possible to backtrack into previous levels, and buttons once pressed are not marked, unless they were booby-trapped.
The game was originally released in Japan in collaboration with the Theatrical Group WAHAHA Hompo. It had some risqué "gags" that were assumed to be edited out if the game ever got a North American release. However, in 1994, Data East USA decided to publish the game in North America for the Sega CD, renamed but otherwise uncut, except for two deleted stages: Level 2-B, a scene with a cigarette machine, excluded because of the tobacco reference, and Level 9-B, featuring a Japanese typewriter. The level 12-D is notorious for sending the player to the Japanese Mega-CD BIOS screen, but this scene was not changed in the American version and still showed the Japanese BIOS screen instead of the American one.
Panic! was one of only 12 games in GamePro history to earn a score of 1.0 or lower. However, a few other magazines at the time had given the game positive scores for its surrealist humor. Notably Game Players magazine, describing the game as being made "for people on drugs, by people on drugs."