I’m sorry to ask but who gave this game the greenlight? Someone, somewhere, somehow decided to release this on the eShop as a finished product for other people to buy. I thought it was bad enough that the shameless Lep’s World knockoff (which itself is just a second-rate Mario clone). Croc’s World made it onto the eShop as well but Panda Hero puts even that game to shame! This game has the utter gall to be priced at $29.99 and it is even found on store shelves in EU territories.

Panda Hero is a very obvious clone of 2D Mario platformers. I went in knowing that much. And I was fine with the idea of playing through a game of that caliber. Little did I know just how devastated I would be from what was in store for me. I just cannot fathom the idea of there being any quality control behind this one.

Story

Panda Hero lacks any story whatsoever. It doesn’t try building up the kind of premise that even Mario would often throw out there as an excuse to get things going. The game just gets you right into things without context at all.

Graphics

First things first, Panda Hero ain’t worth $29.99. Looking at it shows; the graphics are like those found in any $0.99 mobile game. They could be seen as soft and cute in places but I find them more often to be static, cheap, and soulless. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these characters, backgrounds, and tiles were taken straight from an asset package. It’s also amusing that the CGI promo art on the eShop isn’t shown in the game itself whatsoever. Even the menu icon has artwork that’s more accurate to what the game would look like.

Audio

Initially, the music sounds pretty nice. It’s not a bad tune in its own right, either. Unfortunately, this one background music track accompanies EVERY SINGLE LEVEL in the entirety of Panda Hero! Was there really nothing that could have suited each of the world themes? I’m sure there’s more than enough royalty free music out there that could make for a decent platformer soundtrack.

Even not withstanding that aspect, the sound design is obnoxious. A barrage of stock sounds come to clash together in Panda Hero. You have a variation of the Koopa-stomping sound from Mario when killing an enemy with a shell and killing airborne enemies triggers a “blip” sound straight from the binaries of Game Maker 7. It’s all very unattractive to say the least.

Gameplay

Reiterating what I said early into the review, Panda Hero is a shamelessly blatant Mario-like platformer that consists of four worlds. There are thirteen levels in each world and each level could theoretically be beaten in a couple of minutes. However, Panda Hero is such a glitchy unstable mess that I had to contact PR on two separate occasions just so the game-locking bugs are removed. And that’s just for me to finish the game. You want to know about all the crap I had to go through to get to that point? You better be sitting down with a bag of popcorn, because we’re going on a ride.

Let’s start off with a quick lesson in game design.

So why do I bring this up? Well, guess what game failed to follow this extremely basic rule?

This part was only briefly in-game but the fact that nobody ever went “Hey, we should probably fix this portion of the level before release” shows the lack of care put into making Panda Hero. In fact, this is a rather tame example because it doesn’t really affect gameplay. Inversely, the glitches that involve breakable blocks being used as walls for wall jumping nearly destroy any playability in the level they show up in. Never was I able to use them as actual walls because I only ever glitch through them.

I refuse to believe this game was playtested. That would have implied the developers of the game actually played the levels they made and saw what was wrong. It also would have ensured none of these errors would have been left untouched in the final product. Alas, Panda Hero is instead a game that Sonic ’06 can laugh at. Even without the sheer amount of bugs, though, the level designs would still be anything but fun to traverse. It somehow manages to feel both painfully by-the-numbers and almost like a bunch of random set pieces put together without much attention to cohesion.

Enemies and hazards can be a real annoyance as well. While they are usually easy to overcome (especially thanks to attacks that admittedly are useful), the game sometimes has a habit of placing them in ways that would kill the player easily if he or she isn’t careful enough. Some can only take a bit of your health but for some reason others can kill you instantly. With a whopping 50 lives to start out with you’d think you can breeze by Panda Hero without much trouble. Yet the game routinely finds a way to add a catch. The bosses on the other hand make for the easiest levels in the game. I mean, see for yourself…

Verdict

As much as I appreciate that the PR for Markt+Technik addressed my emails and that the game has been updated to be able to be beaten, I find it appalling Panda Hero is released like this. The game-crashing bug that kept me from playing World 4-4 and onward still hasn’t even been fixed meaning the game is still unbeatable to this day. This is why this review has been under wraps for so long. Maybe there will be another much-needed update in due time, but I’m done waiting. To be honest, it’s not like the score would be raised that much from it anyway.

Panda Hero doesn’t even have the courtesy to do the bare minimum Mario clones typically meet. This game has been out for weeks and no one is about to play through it without experiencing major glitches and frustrations. Yet take the bugs out of the equation and it nevertheless has all of the cliche annoyances and beyond. There’s sporadic and artificially manipulated difficulty, half-hearted level creations, uninspired settings, and all the signs in the world that show just how little care there was behind this thing. This is a great example for what not to do with your platform game.

Review copy provided by Markt+Technik