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Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: Experience Fast Food And Fast Fear In Playmaze Panic

Who doesn’t love to crawl around in a McDonald’s playplace? Besides anyone over the age of six, I mean. Playmaze Panic takes place in one of these human-sized hamster cages. You play a child playing in the play place. Except there are no other children in here, and there is no exit. And within this toddler Black Lodge is a dire but appropriately themed threat. 

Conceptual Meta-Wank:

It may not be wise to spotlight a game for the same reason as last week’s, but Playmaze Panic is another great example of doing more with less. Created for the Akupara Games 2020 game jam. While this game technically comes from a studio larger than most of the games we spotlight, it still fits the bill for what makes an indie horror game great. Less resources and time means more creativity and ingenuity. 

Playmaze Panic is a simple game. You’re in a series of mostly identical hallways and rooms. And yet, with some creative lighting and coloring and sounds, the area becomes a maddening liminal space with a terrifying atmosphere. Pretty good, for a collection of tubes.

Non-Wanky Game Recap:

As previously stated, Playmaze Panic is a bunch of tubes. Tubes that you happen to be trapped in. To escape, all you have to do is find some toys and move them around. 

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. With you in the play place is a big burger. One with eyes and teeth and a terrible hunger for children (you), named Oogaburga. Playmaze Panic certainly lives up to its name. 

What Works:

The atmosphere of Playmaze Panic is one of its best aspects. The visual style of the tubes makes the game so powerful. Colorful passages with black rings around them not only mimic the inside of the real thing, but in this game create optical illusions, all the more unsettling. 

I’m also a huge fan of taking normally harmless places and using it for a horror setting. Playmaze Panic is at about the same level as ball pit horror (that’s a free idea for a game, no need to thank me). Subverting your expectations of what you’ve experienced in real life is often key for making a game truly terrifying. 

What Doesn’t:

Playmaze Panic is the product of a game jam, so obviously the developers did not have time to make a fully fleshed out game. You can probably beat the game within five minutes. But besides that, there’s really nothing here that doesn’t work. I suppose there could be a more interesting objective than “pick up three toys,” but beyond I can’t think of anything. 

How To Fix It:

Truthfully, I don’t think Playmaze Panic warrants a fix. The game is perfectly fine as is. Adding complexity or new mechanics would throw off the balance. Sure, I guess some extra details or smoothed edges would be an improvement. But certainly not fixing something that is broken.

Wanky Musings:

The beauty of indie horror games is the flexibility that comes with small projects. Developers can create a little game, and if they don’t like it, then they don’t need to finish. But if they do, it benefits the whole indie game community. Playmaze Panic is an example of a game which developers should look to for guidance. Using simple parts and colors, the game is something truly incredible. 

You can try Playmaze Panic for free on itch.io by clicking here. 

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