Kaiju Panic Review

  • Kaiju Panic Review
  • Rating: 2.5
  • gaming: Tim Gruver
  • Reviewed by:
  • On October 14, 2015
  • Last modified:October 14, 2015

Review Summary:

Kaiju Panic’s imaginative take on real-time strategy and tower defense games is a charming tribute to its cinematic inspiration, but its unforgiving design can’t help but compromise the joys of its adorable aesthetic.

Kaiju Panic Review

It was in 1954 that Godzilla made his triumphant onscreen debut and the world first came to fear the word “kaiju.” In the years that have passed, these literal “strange beasts” have come in all shapes and sizes, but namely the gargantuan kind.

No stranger creature has emerged from the muddy waters of the UK’s indie gaming scene than Mechabit’s trying testament to Japan’s monstrous tradition. A novel blend of real-time strategy and tower defense games, Kaiju Panic is a genre hybrid that shouldn’t exist by any stretch of the imagination, yet here it is, warts and all.

Kaiju Panic has you play as the commander of an international rapid response unit tasked with collecting, protecting, and evacuating earth’s citizens as you hold back the attacking Kaiju. The vast majority of your time will be spent hurriedly constructing battlements to defend your central headquarters against the tide of monsters. They come in five distinct variables: explosive, resources, acid, laser, and cannon, each with their own sub-variants. The rest is just a matter of outlasting waves of enemies until your well-earned victory or, as I’ve experienced it, your all-too frequent defeat.

While Kaiju Panic may eschew the monotony of most tower defense games, its design falls victim to its own unpredictability. There are no obvious patterns to enemy waves and no way to estimate their strength until you barrage them with firepower. Instead, you have to keep your eyes peeled for incoming Kaiju and somehow plan accordingly, making victory a frustrating matter of trial-and-error. Though Kaiju types will specifically be previewed onscreen, it’s your best guess as to what path they’ll take to your doorstep. It’s problems like these that put Kaiju Panic’s emphasis on tactical base-building and resource-gathering sensibilities at odds with the wild nature of your Kaiju attackers.

Kaiju Panic Review

Colorful Kaiju that stream in from the four corners of the map all target your HQ, which must be protected or you’ll instantly fail and activate one of the worst buzzing noises I’ve ever heard in my life. Kaiju are generally divided up between worker drones and mini-bosses that come with any number of weaknesses, like armored outer shells that need to be breeched with acid before being pummelled by cannon fire. Depending on the defensive layout you hash out, it might be more feasible to use a long bank of Quad-Lasers or a powerful sniper cannon alongside mines. This is the layer of strategy that makes Kaiju Panic fun until it isn’t.

It would be fun enough just to experiment with Kaiju Panic, but it never seems to give you the right tools at the right time. That it belongs to no single genre is easily what makes it unique as much as it does perplexing. Some Kaiju harbor specific weaknesses to particular weapons early on, yet these weapons may not be available for a good ten levels or so, forcing you to make do with whatever weaponry you have on hand.

Going further, none of them are discernibly color-coded according to their stated weaknesses. Red, blue, yellow, or purple, just about every Kaiju can be killed with laser fire when you unlock it and a laser turret becomes the game’s disenchanting solution to everything. The Citizens, who look like knockoffs of Funko bobble head toys, can further be used to boost defense structures’ power and range. Assigning civilians to emplacements is its own art form given their limited numbers and it’s somehow satisfying to make off with every one of them in tow.

The constant frustration of recycling through tactics ad nauseam is a challenge that should test even experienced players’ patience, but one that’s nonetheless the driving force behind the game. The currency you generate from building mines around crystal structures also runs out well before the end of a stage, often leaving you out of options beyond just playing through the stage indefinitely until you simply stumble upon a winning strategy. As a result, I usually spent an extra half-hour on each stage just to realize that placing a cannon half an inch to the right meant the difference between airlifting my citizens to safety and hosting a kaiju beach party on my front lawn. Rarely does it seem like Kaiju Panic uses the urgency of its gameplay to build tension than merely pushing you to its endgame.

Kaiju Panic Review

For all its shortcomings, there’s something oddly cathartic about enduring the challenge of this game, and this is due in no small part to its adorable presentation. The indie’s cutesy art-style compliments its cartoonish violence splendidly and even failing any one of its twenty-plus levels (which you will) is made easier with its Zen-like ambience. The same sadly cannot be said of its tuneless soundtrack. Citizen biographies also come with their own brand of humor, like a Japanese school girl whose special talent is eating toast with no hands or an American skateboarder whose hobbies include ranting about the government.

Kaiju Panic is a strange beast to describe and stranger still to describe as an experience. Its novel take on real-time strategy and tower defense games is a charming tribute to its cinematic inspiration, but its unforgiving design can’t help but compromise the joys of its adorable aesthetic. What it may lack in accessibility it makes up for in style, sparse as it is over the course of its bloated campaign. So, while I can’t recommend it to anyone but genre enthusiasts, if the idea of tower defense wrapped up in a real-time strategy game excites you, then I can say that this one isn’t a bad time to be had. It is, however, a missed opportunity.

This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.

Kaiju Panic Review

Kaiju Panic’s imaginative take on real-time strategy and tower defense games is a charming tribute to its cinematic inspiration, but its unforgiving design can’t help but compromise the joys of its adorable aesthetic.

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