Panic Porcupine is a first for me. I've played various VR games and racing games that have you travel near supersonic speeds. More than that, I've been inside rally cars and clenched hard enough to make coal as I thought I was going over the edge of a mountain, I've been on extremely fast rollercoasters, and I've done more than enough driving on 4+ hour trips by myself. I have never felt motion sickness or even remotely dizzy until Panic Porcupine and its islands and poles. Or, more accurately, its camera.
Let's get the low-hanging fruit out of the way right at the start. Yes, this wants to be Sonic. It wants to be Sonic so hard; there's even a fan-art picture of Sonic at the beginning of the game, a picture that I wouldn't be surprised to find on somebodies illicit website for all things furry. The changes are wafer-thin, too; rather than collecting rings, you collect eggs because, you know, Eggman. Aesthetically, it may as well be one of the original Sonic games. Not that it's a bad thing; it looks good for what it's trying to do.
I must also say that the animations are excellently done across the board, ranging from Panic to buzzsaws, chainsaws, lava, water, and more that will result in many, many, many further death animations. It's all well-rounded with a colour scheme well-suited for the fast-paced platformer it is. Of course, visuals aren't the only place it comes across like Sonic, a series it's ripping pieces from like a hungry T-Rex.
The audio keeps the similarities strong, with a soundtrack that could have been in an earlier Hedgehog title. I'd argue the soundtrack is pretty decent, one that you will find yourself familiar with, thanks to the many deaths you'll suffer, prolonging your time on any given level. A few of the little clips, such as when you die, can eventually (quickly) bore into your brain like an unwanted parasite, but that's - again - due to how often you'll end up hearing them.
Gameplay is where the similarities end once you get the speed and loop-de-loops out of the way. Were I to compare Panic Porcupine to anything else, it would be Super Meat Boy. Everything is one-hit-death, but the difference here is that the game wants to find a mixture of Sonic and Super Meat Boy - Super Meat Hedgehog, if you will. It doesn't do it well because the fast-paced instant death and insane puzzles of SMB do not work well with the more extended collecting activities and even a bit of exploration of Sonic. At least not for me; they don't.
Lack of enemies and a focus on avoiding instadeath traps is the game. There are boss battles, but this is - again - about avoiding instadeath traps. You destroy the boss, Dr Proventriculus, by bouncing on rotating orbs around him. If I were honest, I would rather Spicy Gyro Games have cut out the boss fights or at least made some fun little cutscene fight after you'd done your bouncing; it's all rather anticlimactic because Dr Portmanteau doesn't scare me, while a lone spike from a brittle garden fence inspires panic to the Porcupine.
I should clarify that it's not because I'm rubbish at the game. I'm alright; nothing special, but I've been playing games for a long time and can generally muddle my way through even the most demanding games. My problem with Panic Porcupine - and I have muddled my way through - is that a few things get in the way of the enjoyment. First, there's a bit of lag in the response. You're running forward and want to stop, but it takes a little while to register your input, which is not ideal on levels with many short platforms.
Another irritant is the camera. While it works fine, for the most part, it's focused directly on Panic. That makes sense, right? No, wrong. Quash those deviant thoughts. When you're on a platform that rushes from side to side or goes in a circle, the camera naturally follows Panic; only you're then finding a horrible fast-moving camera which is the first time I've ever encountered motion-sickness (or simple dizziness?) in a game. The same for when you're on a pole, spinning around it like the most active stripper, ready to fling yourself to another pole or the next platform.
There isn't much more to say about Panic Porcupine; that's the reality. If you're coming into this expecting a fast-paced platformer, you've got it. If you're coming into this expecting a Sonic the Hedgehog homage, you don't get it... apart from the visuals, audio, main boss, level names, etc. Okay, maybe you do get it. I'm going to stop writing that now. Have you got it?
Panic Porcupine is a decent enough indie title, and coming in at under £7 for the game and soundtrack, one fans of the genre will likely enjoy despite some of the issues. This was released on the PC last year and last month on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation stores.
PC version reviewed. Copy provided by the publisher.