Rather, Don’t Panic is the name of the 2014 Halloween offering from Pulse Games, which is billed as a “completely interactive fear experience with multiple levels, challenging puzzles and fantastic prizes”.
I’m not sure about the “fear” aspect, but there is no denying that Don’t Panic is an involved and entertaining multi-level interactive experience. In it, you take on the role of a television ghost hunter / mystery solver competing in a challenge being run by The Panic Channel, “the hottest cable network for the paranormal”, to explore Carver Mansion. This is a fabled, if now run-down, family home, once the scene of tragic events and formerly a mysterious monastery where Weird Things are rumoured to have happened.
The challenge sees you and your producer, Lily (an NPC who remains in the production van, passing information to you as you explore the house), up against the famous Jack Hunter and the Spectre Collectors in exploring. Jack and his team have actually stolen a march on you; they’ve been on-site for a while; but while you arrive to find all their equipment set-up and ready to go, the team have disappeared. Are they the latest victims in the mansion’s dark history?
There’s only one way to find out – by investigating for yourself, and trying to riddle what really befell the Carver family, and what has happened to Hunter and his crew…
From the starting-point, you’ll need to collect your game pack and wear the HUD (PKE meter) and the tactical headset. There are other items in the pack, but they’re not essential to playing the game.
The HUD provides essential information and also tracks your progress, allowing you to break-off from playing, should you need to, and then resume at a later time. The headset provides a projected light which you will need if you’re running the viewer using the region windlight. The pack also provides gameplay instructions – which should be read and followed. Do make sure you heed the notes on minimising lag and divesting yourself of unnecessary facelights. It’s also a good idea to have sound on as well, although essential information is also delivered through chat.
Once in the house, it’s a case of explore, touch and follow the hints (which take various forms). When I say “explore” and “touch”, I mean exactly that; don’t take anything for granted, and take your time. There are things to be found and collected (recorded by your HUD) which are vital to your progress, some of which are obvious, some perhaps not so.And don’t forget the prizes that are scattered around, waiting to be claimed.
There is also, it has to be said, a wonderful element of wry humour throughout the mansion; it pays to be observant in order to find it.
As the challenge is spread across two regions there is some teleporting to be done – although not so much as you feel you’re being bounced around from pillar to post. Some teleports require the solving of puzzles as does getting through certain doors. Working my way through these had me thinking about how Experience Keys might further add to activities like this – not that Don’t Panic misses anything; the few times the map pop open to facilitate a teleport doesn’t actually interfere with the fun of things.
It’s fair to say that a huge amount of creative thought has gone into Don’t Panic, and a couple of the riddles in particular really do engage the grey matter. This all makes it a thoroughly entertaining activity which – despite the description – doesn’t rely on shock horror elements to achieve its goal.
What I particularly enjoyed about it, aside from solving the puzzles, is that there isn’t necessarily a single route to the solution. For those who do like solving puzzles, it is possible to circumvent collecting all the clues and slip directly to the denouement. Nor does this spoil things – it simply gives an excuse to go back and explore those bits missed in jumping to the end. Similarly, for those who may have missed a clue, it means frustration can be avoided in retracing steps and trying to find whatever was missed.
All told, an engaging, fun challenge which exercises the brain nicely without ever belabouring things. Recommended.
- Don’t Panic SLurl (Rated: Moderate)