Bright colors and the rounded graphics make this Atari PSP game a visual delight, but don't let appearances fool you because you'll definitely find plenty of challenging, problem solving game play here for older, experienced players patient enough to uncover great treasures while increasingly multitasking through several marine areas.
Great tutorials get players hooked into gameplay, plus the producers provide breathing room when learning new tools and abilities and then throw you right back into the water. The only helpful elements missing are specific hints when you're stuck on a level. Players also get restart and fast forward options throughout gameplay (e.g. when your filling up your numerous fish in a cavern before the next major move).
Tools or objects represented as icons in the upper right screen area like bridges, nets, ice, fans, spears, plants and even missiles can be used to complete tasks within the overall theme of getting marine life back where it belongs – in the water below. Using these objects successfully becomes the largest challenge in the game, but take heart, as with all activities, practice makes perfect.
The graphics and movement of the water are astounding. The initial impact of the graphics can even make you forget about the fish for a while. The sharks stand out as the antagonistic water creatures blocking your way, but you can probably predict most of them. Scavenging birds also add some variety to the mix. You can also get a breather among the safe water buoys.
The percentage of surviving fish, represented in the upper left corner, factor into the total score and money from acquiring coins on the way in each amazing, kinetic level. Your results are displayed at the end instead of a cute, close up fish animation celebrating your victory, which probably would've skewed the audience back to younger ones. The bouncy, "cutey pie" music can get a little irritating, too, although the high pitched voice reaction noises and action sounds add some audio variety.
Lagging fish, unsteady environments, and necessary sacrifices heighten the pulse-pounding excitement even more. With so many obstacles and movements, players must become skillful, and lucky, in order for their timing to succeed. The stationary boulders and most other objects are distinct enough graphically that most players won't have a hard time sorting them out.
The unlockable "Survival" mode provides even more challenges while the unlockable "Free Play" matches the free flowing attitude/feeling of the visuals very well. The Free Play mode has a definite incentive – you can use your money to buy more helpful tools.
This action filled puzzler should flow pretty well with most gamers. Comparisons to LocoRoco are unavoidable, but this game has enough challenge, originality and replay value (80 levels!) to swim with the best titles out there!
Downstream Panic is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Animated Blood and Mild Cartoon Violence.