I have been sitting here, trying to think of a lead for this review and I can’t think of a better one than tell you, dear readers, how lost I am. Solar Panic: Utter Distress is a game? I guess. I suppose it’s no less a game than your average “walking simulator”, but it really feels more like a meme page come to life. Just hang with me while I try to review the un-reviewable. Welcome to Solar Panic: Utter Distress.
Solar Panic: Utter Distress was developed and published by Barracuda Disaster and was released on PC on January 28, 2020.
What’s My Temperature?
Saying this game has a story is almost an insult to anyone who has put pen to paper, and I don’t really mean that as an insult. You play as a sort of space secret agent who is closer to Spaceball’s Lonestar than he is to James Bond. Apart from that I can only describe the following events as your worst fever dream.
The first “mission” of the game involved dropping onto some planet with a very generic beach resort looking city to meet a contact. From there I waited in a security line in which I had to be scanned by sticking my fingers into a machine that not just resembles but straight up IS female genitalia. From there I can’t really explain what happened. Some people burst into flames and I had to defend my extract against wild turkeys with a gun that shoots ketchup.
There isn’t a whole lot else to say about the story because in doing so I would spoil the whole game. Not that there really is anything to spoil but the game takes only about an hour to complete so I would end up just explaining the game to you, which is something I am frankly not equipped to do.
Point A to B
The game itself is mostly just wandering around, following objectives, and wondering what else I could be doing with my time. And I call them “objectives” quite loosely. There isn’t really anything to interact with in the world. You just wander from one place to another until the game tells you to go to another place. Eventually the game is just complete and you’re left wondering what happened. The most you can really do is “talk” to NPC’s who deliver nonsequiturs that leave you more alarmed than curious.
I stopped trying to speak to them after one shouted at me, “I’M JUST FILLER CONTENT”.
The only time the wandering from place to place is broken up is with a couple of slapped together shooter segments. I say slapped together because both segments are exactly the same. You are given a gun and shoot at an endless wave of an identical enemies until the game decides you have done enough. The guns have no recoil and virtually no animation to speak of, making these segments almost beatable with one’s eyes closed.
I feel that describes the entire experience pretty well. Solar Panic: Utter Distress is just a game filled with “stuff” and almost none of it original. Its entire presentation feels, and sometimes is, ripped from other source materials.
Graphically it feels like a mix between Rick and Morty and Parappa The Rapper. With the exception of the first mission I mentioned before, most of the other areas you explore are homages to other shows and games. The next area the game sends you to is pretty much just the sewer district from Futurama and not long after that the game just sends you to Skyrim, all the while making poop, fart, and pee jokes.
Did I have a few laughs? Sure I did. But only in the way a 30-second YouTube video you stumble upon at 3 a.m. after you’ve already been up for 36 hours makes you laugh for no reason. Solar Panic: Utter Distress feels like it wants to be The Stanley Parable for the Rick and Morty generation but it comes across more as a desperate attempt to get a laugh no matter how random and ridiculous you need to get.
It never crosses the line to offensive, but it just doesn’t do anything original or interesting. It feels like a game I would have recommended my friends play in the 7th grade that I found on one of the many random Flash game sites that existed 15 years ago. But in 2020 as a $15 game on Steam, just play The Stanley Parable.
Review copy provided by Barracuda Disaster for PC. Screenshots courtesy of Barracuda Disaster.