In our world, the giant panda is an endangered species, but on your iPad theyâ€™re a dime a dozen. Well, not quiteâ€¦ but for $1.29 you can bag yourself a whole swag of mini pandas in Unit9â€™s new physics-based puzzle app.
In Nano Panda, the objective is to launch miniscule pandas at atoms to destroy them, thereby advancing to the next level, where further challenges await. Why pandas and atoms? To be honest, weâ€™re not entirely sure, but itâ€™s no more unusual a combination thanâ€¦ say, birds and pigsâ€¦ or ropes, candy and hungry monsters.
Your pandas are shot out of launch tubes, and they keep going until they meet their demise â€“ either on a spiky surface, or when they come in contact with an Evil Atom, resulting in mutual destruction (although we prefer to think of it as a noble sacrifice). The furry critters will happily rebound off a non-spiky surface, and these are often angled to alter their trajectory. The real fun begins when you launch two or more pandas, and a kind of electro-magnetic attraction kicks in. Think of it as an electric bungy cord, by which the pandas are connected. Timing is usually important, and the order of launch can be crucial to success.
Stars are placed strategically around the screen, often in difficult to reach positions. Collecting them provides you with a secondary objective. These are not required to in order to progress, but they do add to the gameâ€™s overall replay value. Youâ€™re able to return to any previously completed level and try to better your performance. Via the menu, itâ€™s easy to see at a glance which levels you aced, and which have room for improvement.
As you might expect, the difficulty â€“ and frustration - factor increases as you play. New challenges are introduced, such as moving / movable platforms, and attractors. These have a â€˜gravitational pullâ€™ effect on the pandas, which can be quite unpredictable when you have several of them orbiting an attractor like furry little satellites. Any frustration is quickly forgotten, however, when you finally nail that seemingly impossible level... bet it through skill or luck.
Sometimes you have to wait for quite some time as the pandas bounce back and forth, or round and round (seemingly going nowhere). For those not blessed with infinite patience, there is a restart icon at hand â€“ particularly useful when you know itâ€™s a lost cause; and a pause icon, for those unexpected real-life emergencies.
Cutesy sound effects and jaunty jingles keep it light hearted, while visuals come to the nano party with a cheerful colour scheme that is easy on the eyes, and plenty of bold, clean lines. Animations are simple but effective; the pandas flail their tiny limbs in flight, and itâ€™s quite satisfying to watch an Evil Atomâ€™s expression change from smug to anxious, as a panda approaches.
All up, this addictive wee app will provide up to a couple of hourâ€™s worth of entertainment, particularly if you plan to revisit some of the trickier levels and figure out how to nab those last, elusive stars. A good option for those times when you have a few minutes to kill, and for less than the cost of the Dom Post, itâ€™s a real bargain.