Version Reviewed: 1.1
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There are many racing games on the app store, but none of them have really delivered a Crazy Taxi inspired experience to the iPhone. That is, until now. Mad Processor has released Parcel Panic - Post Car Racer 3D, and while you'll be transporting packages as opposed to chauffeuring passengers, it does an admirable job of honoring the SEGA arcade and Dreamcast classic. The game is not quite as arcade-like in feel, and there are definitely some missed opportunities in this first version, but fans of the sub-genre will be pleased by the core gameplay.
In Parcel Panic, you must pick up and drop off as many packages as possible within a 1 minute time period. The backdrop is a mid-sized map called Tapiti Island, and it's loaded with hills, cliffs and bridges to navigate on the way to various buildings located across the seaside town. A floating arrow points you to the next location, and a dotted green line on the road draws a path for you. There is a time limit for each route based on the distance involved, and the quicker you arrive will determine your score. The suggested path isn't always the best one to take, and you can use various aspects of the terrain to cut corners or make daring jumps to save time. The use of shortcuts not only gets you to your destination faster, but also gives you small time bonuses for your overall session. Another factor to take into account is your cargo, as taking too many jarring bumps can cause you to lose your packages and negatively impact your score.
You start Parcel Panic with one very slow truck appropriately labeled the Snail, and can open 3 additional ones by achieving a certain score with each successive truck. The controls are solely tilt-based, with the camera tilting your perspective as you turn, and they are easy to get the hang of. The game also has a Free Ride mode where you can explore the island at your leisure, without worrying about making any deliveries. This is great for learning the lay of the land, and discovering new shortcuts.
One thing that is a bit odd about Parcel Panic is the concept of levels within the game. You'll quickly notice that your routes are seemingly always in the same order, but there is a "level set" choice buried in the options menu. The level selection is just a numerical value from 0-99, offering 100 different pre-defined paths for you to use. This is a rather obscure way to handle the order of your routes, as any one of these static, nameless levels can be memorized, and setting the value itself is pretty non-intuitive. The ability to randomly set your level, or better yet offer a choice of routes within the game based on difficulty/length, would be a great addition.
Even though you can unlock 3 additional trucks, the scores needed to accomplish this can be pretty difficult and may turn off more casual gamers. You will need to memorize a level and then repeat it quite a few times before getting all of the vehicles. The trucks themselves don't offer much of an upgrade until the very last one, as they all move rather sluggishly. This sort of makes sense because you are driving a truck after all, but it does affect the overall sense of speed, and it can take a while to build up momentum or reverse direction. The one thing I really miss is a handbrake in order to whip around while stopping, which is always fun and useful in a game like this.
When it comes to options, Parcel Panic also comes up a bit short. There are no leaderboards, achievements, or stat-tracking of any kind. It would be great to be able to compare times with friends, and keep track of things such as total number of parcels delivered. The soundtrack included is basically one tune and, although it isn't nearly as grating as the Offspring song that constantly loops in Crazy Taxi, it would be nice to have more variety or be able to use your own adrenaline-pumping music. And while the tilt controls do work admirably, some players may want a sensitivity slider or the choice of touch controls. I also encountered a couple of bugs, one of which wiped out my hard-earned scores and then rendered the game unbootable. A word of warning: do not exit the game before the initial loading screen has completed!
It's rare that a genre would go untapped this long in the bloated app store, and Parcel Panic does a very good job of filling the void. As a first attempt, it's quite solid and shows great potential. With some minor tweaks, upgrades, and bug-fixes, Parcel Panic could make everyone forget about the obvious Crazy Taxi comparisons. Until then, it is still a fun game, and is recommended to those who were patiently waiting for something like this on the iPhone.
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