Have you ever wanted to live through you own musical? Well, soon you can, via the magic of your iPhone or iPad. Peter Panic is a customizable adventure for iOS set in a Broadway-saturated world, featuring voice talent that will give tingles to even the most casual musical theater fans. Some evil genius realized the crossover potential between casual gaming and singing about feelings, and now I am unable to refuse Peter’s siren song.
The story is pretty straightforward: Peter is an aspiring young director who wants to bring theater back to his hometown. As he travels from one strange location to the next, he must perform dozens of challenging, weird minigames to convince as many people as he can to help him. If you ever thought there was a market for blending Best in Show with WarioWare, then you were probably the creator of this game.
The game’s designer, James Marion of jimjam in Brooklyn, chimed in with his own comments about why anyone would combine mobile gaming and musical theater:
“The game’s story is a sort-of metaphor for bringing theater back into my own life as the main character, Peter, brings theater back to his home town. The game explores the sacrifices that must be made in order to allow your passions to flourish. Art is hard. Sometimes it leaves us for a time; sometimes we’re afraid it won’t come back. When I started making games, I was afraid that I was going to lose the relationship I had with theater. In many ways, Peter Panic is my reestablishment of that relationship.”
After spending a few hours with a pre-release build of the game, I can confirm that this isn’t just a pretty package. The characters and story have a charm and joyful comedy that, I suppose, only a world based in musical theater can provide, although there are hints of those rare things in pop-culture that seem to welcome everyone. If you threw Gilmore Girls’ small-town focus in a cauldron with Brendon Small’s Home Movies, an old school LucasArts adventure, and the few episodes anyone saw of Smash — well, there’s Peter Panic!
There are Endless modes for many of the arcade elements, along with hosts of unlockables and customization options, providing a chance to dive back into the more “gamey” elements after the very linear story is complete.
The game is fully scored by award-winning composer Ben Bonnema, and includes a level guest-composed by Grant Kirkhope (GoldenEye 007, Donkey Kong 64), which I hope establishes a DLC/expansion precedent to get other musical talent to contribute to this game or its inevitable sequel.
I’d be remiss to not mention the cast, although the final listing has not been confirmed. I can tell you it features Broadway talent from the casts of Fun Home, Spring Awakening, Hair, The Little Mermaid, Motown, and more — so if any of those titles put an extra spring in your step, this might be exactly what you’re looking for. Oh, it’s Emily Skeggs from Fun Home who somehow found time to do this alongside Remy Germinario? Sure, that’s not a freak-out level awesome thing, or whatever.
This is one of those rare titles that just oozes heart and passion from the moment you see the first minute of the trailer, so my hands-on time with the game was almost a relief because it would be easy to see something this cute not being able to hold up the interactive side of the experience. Thankfully, Marion and his small team have taken the time this project deserved, and the end result shows that dedication. Digging around the internet, you can still see the form the game took as an NYU thesis project, and the end result has the same heart in a much prettier package.
This is one of four recent acquisitions announced by Adult Swim Games, which means the same people who brought us a robotic unicorn attacking the world set to the music of Erasure and a simulator that hilariously dares you to kill yourself, are also bringing the world its first micro-musical-adventure app. Which bodes will for Peter Panic! being a free-ish release with the potential for micro-transactions. Now we just count up the 525,600 in-game credits. …
That was just a test. I’d would never make a Rent/App Store joke in 2016. That would just be cruel.