After Dark screensavers, anyone remember those? What about those hacker group ultra-LSD inspired advertising .EXEs? If you were dying for a revival of these classic mementos of the past, I might have something for you. It’s called PANORAMICAL. An updated visualizer with some minimal music manipulation, this is the type of game for those looking for something off the beaten path. Then, veering off of that beaten path again, on a faded trail that heads towards a strawberry field on a purple hill. Now perhaps declaring this title a straight up screensaver is a bit harsh; it does include a little involvement on the part of the user…just not much. The game’s description says that it is an “immersive musical adventure through space and time.” I mean, I was expecting some sort of acid-rock space opera quantum journey, maybe a ride on Parliment’s Mothership. Something funkadelic and surreal. When I sat down to play this, I had a growing urge to meet the designers of PANORAMICAL, in person, face-to-face, so they could see the unflinching whites of my eyes as I ask: “In what backwards illogical Dark Tower-esque dimension, does this game constitute an adventure?” but I doubt I will ever get the chance.
I’m clearly at a disadvantage when trying to review this game. In this life, my medicine cabinet contains only expired antibiotics, floss, Excedrin, and a toenail clipper. Maybe a few toenails, but who’s doesn’t? Even with vodka and rum in the house, I am sure my quantities of mind-altering substances are not sufficient to gain something meaningful out of this experience. I did try to make the incoherent coherent through the magic of liver damage, but I failed. Just when I was about to give up I had a great idea.
I decided to call a friend over to the house. This isn’t just any friend, but someone who is an expert at seeing things that other people do not. I told him nothing about PANORAMICAL, just made sure he knew that the name is pronounced in all caps. He sat down and intently stared at my 30″ ultra resolution monitor, with added 5.1 surround sound speaker presentation and took in PANORAMICAL. After about 7 minutes he stood up. His eyes were wide and his limbs twitched nervously. Sweat drops formed on his head, and his fingers fumbled with unseen knots. I didn’t want to look down at his jeans, but I am pretty sure there was a dark wet spot between his legs. He told me that the game had delivered a message.
The message, according to my dear friend, said that in 7 days an orange jellyfish would deliver my consciousness to an Islamic extremist group run by nonhuman factions of the KGB, I would look and act like a myself, but no longer be myself. I would be a cloned pawn, a marionette in the service of a greater evil that was beyond anything anyone has ever seen. I asked if there was anything good to come of my imminent corporeal takeover. He scootched firmly against the wall and did this strange snow angel type of movement as he inched his way to my front door…then ran away screaming. Full disclosure: this friend of mine is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but what he described after “playing” this game for 7 minutes was more of an adventure than anything I personally experienced. Knowing this, please take his experiences with PANORAMICAL with an EXTREME GRAIN OF SALT.
For those that are still interested in something different: You can play this title with a mouse and keyboard, gamepad, or even a MIDI controller, I decided to use a gamepad for maximum potential “chill” factor. If you must know, I wore fuzzy pajama pants, a white wifebeater and I was chewing on a pen. I had my head cocked slightly to the right, and my legs were completely thrown over the side of my large wooden wingback. I had spiked juiced nearby. Brown fleece slippers on. I couldn’t be more relaxed. I was ready to play PANORAMICAL.
Settings are simple and essentially change the sharpness of the visual landscapes. The game is about pushing more or less shapes onto the screen, and/or changing musical tempo and colors. Each button and a D-PAD direction on the controller relates to an aspect of the visuals/music you are experiencing. With the left bumper being a quick screenshot picture. Once you start “playing” you can, for example, hit the RIGHT D-Pad and use an analog stick to move that setting around a X-Y style grid represented as a small square at the bottom left. The RIGHT D-Pad direction may represent the amount of grass, stars, hills displaying on the screen. “A” Button and analog directional may control musical tempo, or background color schemes.
Musically it doesn’t really capture anything either. The tweaking of options will change the atmospheric sounds, a collection of dings, boops, and whoops, as you toy with the tempo, tones, and pitch. Nothing sounds musically good. It sounds more like walking into a senior citizen ‘Learn How To Play Big Band Music’ night class at the local high school. Some of the landscapes are nice to view for a moment, and some of the musical designs are ethereal or mildly interesting…for a moment. That moment snaps back to an entertainment void rather quickly.
Now I am a fan of games that blend gameplay and music together, such as Rez, Audiosurf, Lumines, and A.V. to name a few, but PANORAMICAL is as close to those games as watching PBS’s orchestral bliss with Lang Lang is to front row seats at a 1979 Death From Above concert. If manipulating a screensaver with an amalgam of noises is what you seek, then this title is as smooth and new as it gets. If you are really craving a graphical “adventure” or musical gameplay: this is not it. This is a title only those already wading in and out of an out-of-body experience will enjoy; for those select precious ones select your resolution, your graphical settings, and turn off everything except breathing and enjoy, if you can. There is no real start, no real end, just whatever you want to get out of PANORAMICAL, be it zoning out, or just manipulating things to something you find pleasing. If you are willing to buy this, email me, I may have some wall mounted singing bass souvenirs I would love to sell to you.Steam