The premise behind Polar Panic is straight forward enough. Taking the role of Polar (the polar bear!) you must navigate your way around a maze saving your family and destroying the enemy in the process. To make things interesting the maze is filled with different types of blocks, from simple blocks of snow that require smashing, to explosive crates that require careful handling to ensure correct use. Being very snowy the floor is quite slippery, so pushing a block will generally set it off sliding in the direction pushed, making things a great deal more challenging requiring careful planning in order to ensure no mistakes are made.
The game's story sees Polar’s family being held captive by an evil corporation called Globoco Inc. ran by the evil Mr. Big. The Story Mode has you progressing through small levels with the sole goal of squishing Mr. Big’s trappers between blocks of ice or via exploding crates. It is nice to see that a game that is stylised and designed with young gamers in mind focusing on environmental issues by portraying the evil corporation destroying the poor bears homes, and the cartoon graphics forgive any brutality connected with crushing foes in-between large blocks of ice.
Trappers, the games main foe, start out basic with nothing more than a club to smack you with but soon vary with more dangerous rocket and flamethrower wielding variants. If this wasn’t enough you will also have boss encounters with Mr. Big that require further tactics to overcome. Expanded beyond simply needing to crush foes, you will also be persuaded to obtain collectables such as statues needing to be smashed and family members locked in cages waiting to be freed, all of which contribute heavily to your end of level score that will be open for everyone to see on the game's online leaderboards.
Outside of the story mode there is a Puzzle Mode that has you needing to solve complex maze puzzles with a focus on how many moves you perform to do so, and how much time you spend trying to figure out how. Both are scored independently of each other at the end of the level, giving you two grades per level. With 50 levels in total, there is a wide range of complex puzzles to be solved (especially so if aiming for those A grades). Beyond these two primary modes is Survival Mode, which as the name suggests has Polar facing off against a never-ending wave of trappers attempting to land a high score; something which can be attempted alone or with up to four friends, although certainly best enjoyed with a few friends given the frantic score chasing nature of it.
Polar Panic isn’t pushing the envelope when it comes to blockbuster arcade games, but it never gives you the impression it wants to. Whilst the aesthetics are simple, the setting for the game couldn’t have fit more and apart from some slight camera angle issues and slow animations is overall polished nicely. Audio is also a treat, with catchy orchestral background music being played at all times. Reminiscent of Pengo games from the early eighties, Polar Panic does a good job at bringing back an arcade feel of gameplay that can be picked up and played for short bursts, provides shallow short based enjoyment and has an emphasis on hitting high scores be it alone or with friends.