Puzzle Solving and World Exploring
The minds behind the wonderful wilderness Shelter games have now decided to extend their creative arm into the publishing world. Might and Delight have teamed up with one-man game studio Spelkraft (Emil Berner) to help publish Pan-Pan, a puzzle exploration game that focuses on environmental storytelling and problem solving in a colorful and vibrant world. After crash-landing on a mysterious planet, you must help your tiny human friend fix their ship. Through exploration and puzzle solving, you can collect parts to repair their balloon aircraft and send them on their merry way.
Pan-Pan is a relaxing, breezy, autumn afternoon-y kind of puzzle game. There is no dialogue or exposition to start you off, so the only choice you have is to explore and wander around this strange and whimsical world. Pretty much all the areas in Pan-Pan are accessible from the beginning of the game, so it encourages you to wander around and get acquainted with the world. All the parts and puzzles seem disjointed at first, but then they all come together – the more exploration and observation you do, the easier it is to understand how things fit together, “So now I have the stick I can go here and solve this puzzle”-feeling. Solving puzzles unlocks items, which eventually grant you access other secrets and areas.
Pan-Pan keeps it modest with its visuals, using simple shapes and bright colors, but, as you can see from the screen shots, it’s pretty charming. The game also feels nice to play; interactions with objects feel great, the details in sound design and the tranquil, ambient soundtrack composed by Simon Viklund make it a calming experience. Its tiny universe and charm are similar to the worlds of Amanita Design or games like Lumino City and Monument Valley, intuitive puzzles that are simple enough not to get hot headed over set in visually unique worlds.
In terms of narrative, there isn’t much to tell. There is a feeling that some sort of environmental storytelling has been created, but it’s subtle. There are ruins, caves, robots, and so many interesting components, but Pan-Pan doesn’t make it clear how or why they exist in this world. Honestly, there doesn’t have to be a reason, and environmental storytelling is great because it leaves the story up to interpretation. It would have been nice to learn a little history about how this whimsical place came to be, however.
Pan-Pan’s controls are super simple: you move your small human friend around by clicking in the spot where you want them to run to. You also click to interact with objects; there is no doubt the game will be available on tablets or mobiles soon enough. An aspect about the controls in Pan-Pan that make it unique to the other puzzle games previously mentioned is that using WSAD can move the viewpoint in a fixed full circle around the avatar. This allows the player to glide around buildings, see around objects and zoom into and out of the world. The player can shift their viewpoint to see things from a better angle or up close, and it creates a feeling of looking down into this tiny world. In many puzzle games, the viewpoint is fixed, but Pan-Pan allows the player to experience the world as a 3D object.
Pan-Pan runs around two hours of playtime, so, for some, the price tag of £9.99/$12.99 might seem a bit steep. However, its unique puzzles, relaxed atmosphere, wonderful graphics and 3D world are what make it worth it. Lets hope that developers like Might and Delight continue to collaborate with these small projects and help them come to life and that Spelkraft continues to create more peaceful gaming experiences. Pan-Pan is available on Steam, Humble Store and Green Man Gaming.