Pan-Pan ($3.99) by Spelkraft is an open world adventure game that features plenty of puzzles and exploration. If you enjoyed games like Lumino City and Maestria, then you will like what Pan-Pan brings to the App Store.
When I’m not playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my Nintendo Switch these days, I like to turn to my iPhone for some relaxation and variety. Even though there are plenty of puzzles to solve in BotW, I still can’t help but look for even more puzzles in the iOS games that I play, and when you combine it with a vast adventure, well, I can’t resist. When I saw Pan-Pan on the App Store, I was intrigued by the screenshots, and knew that it was something that I had to check out. If you’re a fan of open-world adventure games with little to no guidance, well, Pan-Pan will be right up your alley.
Visually speaking, Pan-Pan is gorgeous. The game features an isometric art style that is similar to games like Monument Valley and Causality, but it has enough unique elements to stand out from the rest. Everything is rendered in full 3-D and the game has that angled top-down perspective so it’s possible to see more on the screen at once. The color palette used in Pan-Pan ranges from soft pastels to some bolder and more vibrant tones, but everything meshes together nicely. Animations are smooth and fluid as you move around and pan the camera, so I had no lag on my iPhone 7. To top everything off, Pan-Pan has a soothing, ambient soundtrack that is composed by Simon Viklund. The tunes and sound effects are relaxing yet immersive, so it’s best to play the game with a good pair of earbuds if you want to full experience.
The game starts out with a spaceship that is flying in space, but as you tap on it to interact with it, the ship ends up breaking down and crashing on a mysterious planet, so you must fix it and find your way back home. There are no levels in Pan-Pan — the game just throws you into the game world without any guidance, and it’s up to you to figure everything out on your own. While you may think that the first area is a bit small, you’ll end up wandering off and uncovering more and more of the world map as you go towards the vignetted areas, and more puzzles are revealed. Since the game is all about exploration, you may have to wander around a bit before you are able to find the necessary elements that are required to complete the puzzles that you come across, so a bit of back-and-forth (and patience) is a must in Pan-Pan. However, everything is done seamlessly as you uncover and enter new areas, which just shows how much care was put into the game during development. There is support for up to three game saves, which is nice to have if someone else wants to play the game on a single device.
The controls in Pan-Pan are simple enough and clearly designed for touch screens. To move your character around, just tap on where you want to go, and she will go towards that spot. If there are objects that you can interact with, there will be a marker above them indicating that and you can tap on them to investigate. These can include switches, buttons, special tiles on the floor, objects that you can pick up and place somewhere, NPCs, and more. As far as saving your game goes, you’ll need to find the save points and save your game manually, otherwise your data can be lost.
If you’ve played point-and-click adventure games in the past, then these controls should feel like second nature to you by now. You can also rotate the camera around by dragging your finger horizontally across the screen, and there is a button at the bottom that allows you to zoom in or out of the current landscape. Optionally, you can also use multitouch gestures like the pinch to zoom in or out.
While the controls work for the most part, I did find the camera panning control to be a bit weird, because it felt inverted. For example, if I wanted to look towards the left of the screen, I would think that swiping my finger left-to-right would rotate the camera clockwise, but it’s just the opposite. This throws me off a bit, and there is no inverted control option to change it to the other way around. But there is a second control scheme that gets rid of the zoom button so that the interface is more clean, if that’s what you prefer.
Aside from the controls, another issue I have with the game is the fact that there is no explanation of anything. While this may appeal to some gamers, I don’t like being thrown into a game without any explanation of what I’m supposed to do, especially during a puzzle. I believe that a lot of the puzzles can be solved through trial-and-error with enough patience, but still, I would have appreciated some kind of explanation of what’s happening at least. I’m a bit torn with this game, because I love the visual style and the music, but when I have no clue what I’m doing, it’s hard to enjoy everything else.
Because there is no help at all, I’m still super early on in the game. I’m in love with the graphics and sound, but it’s hard to have fun with the game when I’m pretty lost. I wish there was a tad more guidance in Pan-Pan, as it would be much more enjoyable for anyone besides hardcore gamers. Hopefully it’s something that the developers can consider in the future, but not ruin the overall experience of the game.
I recommend Pan-Pan only if you enjoy open-world puzzle adventure games and have no problem figuring out what you’re supposed to do without a guide. Pan-Pan can be found on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for $3.99. There are no in-app purchases.