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Video Game / Panic!

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"The most fun you'll have with a CD since you learned those suckers could fly!"
— North American print ad slogan

Panic! (known as Switch! in Japan) is a 1993 game for the Sega CD, developed by Sega and Office Inote  and published in the United States by Data East USA. It's the story of a boy and his dog, among other things.

Okay, so there's this nasty computer virus that's infected the global network server which somehow controls pretty much everything in the world - and that includes things that aren't even computerized. To stop things from going all ker-flooey, your player character Slap and his dog Stick need to set about fixing the problem. Why? Because the U.N. was busy, that's why.

Anyway, Slap and Stick must do this by manipulating various switches that will take them on a trip through cyberspace to the server and allow them to upload an anti-virus program. Are things making sense so far? Cool, because they're definitely about to stop doing that.

Out of nearly a thousand unmarked switches, there are only a few that will allow you to reach your goal. The rest of them are nothing less than a gateway to madness. The game's style is at times reminiscent of an interactive Terry Gilliam animation, only without anything resembling context nine times out of ten. Some switches will affect things or characters in each scene, others will segue into a bizarre cameo of some odd creature or person saying something even odder, and still others will warp you to new areas, which is how you progress through the game. Oh, and buried in there somewhere are 30 booby-trapped switches that are each wired to destroy a different famous landmark (or, in lieu of that, some random guy's farmhouse or teepee); press all 30 of these and it's game over.

Gameplay-wise, there's not much to tell; you press a button, weird things happen, and your eyes immediately start insisting to your brain that yes; they really did just see that shit.

The game was later ported to the PS2 with some minor Bowdlerization involving the booby traps, but luckily, if you don't mind just having the CD, you can comfortably get the US version with it being priced at around $20 as of this writing. If you want a complete US version, well... Importing a complete Japanese copy is not as strenuous on your wallet for one game, but if you want to see what's going on before a purchase, there is an awesome Let's Play of this done by a Mr. Frankomatic of YouTube here that provides the gist of the game.

Tropes Used:

  • Amusing Injuries: Slap tends to be on the receiving end of these.
  • Aside Glance: Slap frequently reacts to gags by looking directly at the player as if to say "You saw that too, right?"
  • Black Comedy: Some of the gags manage to get dark or risqué at times. This was the main reason Sega was initially reluctant to localize it for a US release before Data East stepped in and did it for them.
  • Boob-Based Gag: Drinking a certain potion will cause Slap (or Stick!) to grow a large pair of breasts. He smiles sheepishly until another pair grows on his arms. And another pair on his head. And a dozen or so more before all of them vanish with a hiccup.
  • Canine Companion: Slap has a pet dog named Stick. You get to play as him in a few recycled levels.
  • Completely Different Title: The game is originally called SWITCH in Japan.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Uses it and subverts it. There are a few scenes where you enter the same area but as the dog Stick instead of Slap, and most of the gags in these areas are almost identical. There's also at least a couple of scenes that look exactly like earlier ones, but with different gags happening after you press buttons. For instance, a very late scene appears to repeat Slap teleporting into his TV, but the four buttons lead to a different set of areas.
  • Cutaway Gag: At least one button per room triggers these, and they're usually even weirder than the visual gags.
  • Cyberspace: The entire game takes place in this. But you wouldn't be aware of that if you skipped the opening text.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The mountain climber's dialogue as he scales the Mona Lisa sounds really suggestive.
  • Everything Is Online: We mince no words when we say "everything."
  • Excuse Plot: The entire set up is just a means of throwing as many random sight gags in as possible.
  • Groupie Brigade: Level 4-D has a gag involving various hero-types being chased between rows of doors, including a tuxedo-clad secret agent being chased by a horde of screaming women.
  • Guide Dang It!: Every area has at least one button that warps you to another scene, and the ones that have more than that often have one to send you backwards. So unless you have a photographic memory pertaining to which button does what, be prepared to spend a long time repeating scenarios.
  • The Kid with the Remote Control: Except the remote is unlabelled and 50% of the time it results in injury.
  • Logo Joke: When the game is booted up, the Sega logo has its syllables reversed to read "GASE", complete with a syllable-reversed rendition of the "SEGA!" chant. Slap and Stick then fall down on the logo, causing it to flip back to normal, and we hear the normal "SEGA!" chant.
  • Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: The fact that the game takes place in cyberspace doesn't make it one iota less strange.
  • Meaningful Name: The boy protagonist is named "Slap" and his pet dog is named "Stick". Together, they form "slapstick".
  • Mind Screw: This game could put any of the examples on the Mind Screw page to shame.
  • Mona Lisa Smile: Level 05-A takes place in front of the painting.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: Popping all 30 landmarks isn't the only way to lose. Some switches will instantly end the game. Without any warning, natch.
  • Not Quite Back to Normal: Though you succeed in destroying the virus in the end, not quite all machines have turned back to normal, as evidenced by a scene of a soda machine randomly dispensing a bouquet of flowers.
  • Off-the-Shelf FX: A large number of sound effects are obviously just a guy making noises with his mouth (he's properly credited at the end). It adds to the overall extremely silly effect the game is going for.
  • Running Gag:
    • That damn genie keeps popping up in the strangest places, hums a few bars of his little Leitmotif, and then jets off like a deflating balloon.
    • If a machine has a large opening, one of the buttons will most likely make it vomit.
  • Scenery Porn: Some buttons will trigger a brief change in scenery. Some of the time, it becomes so beautiful, it will enchant the young Slap.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: Level 04-D is chock full of these kind of gags.
  • Self-Deprecation: One of the cutaway gags involves the devil playing a video game. He mocks you for still playing the game and brags about how the game he's playing is actually fun.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Title Drop: Two cases; One in the introduction, dubbing the virus antidote "Panic". The other in a room with a machine that teaches lingo, one of the results being "Panic!"
  • Unfortunate Names: One of the asides features Stick the Dog complaining about how he wishes Slap had named him something cooler.
  • Updated Re-release: The game was ported to the PlayStation 2 in Japan around 2002 with a couple of changes, which include a re-recording of the acapella sound effects and the destruction of popular landmarks changed to have them covered in a fountain of poop instead.
  • The Voiceless: Subverted. There's one room where Slap will repeat whatever phrase the strange gizmo in there shouts. Apart from that, he only makes general vocalizations like Link.
  • Warp Zone: The monolith rooms are these, sort of. They can transport Slap and Stick from Level 7 up to Level 11.