Like getting out of bed in the morning, it takes a forceful push for me to play Pandaty. It’s not a bad game particularly, but it’s a deeply grey and uninspiring platformer. Most pertinently, it’s also demanding, and the problem with being demanding is that you’ve got to inspire the player to put the effort in. And we kind of, sort of, don’t want to.
Pandaty is the brand of budget platformer that you see often on the Xbox Store. For £4.19 you get a handful of discrete, short-ish levels, a cutesy main character, and some animals to save at the end of each level. It’s not going to get Geoff Keighley rewriting his Game Awards nominations.
There is a very particular platformer that Pandaty aspires to. It’s got the same menu layout, approach to levels, and flippant conversations at the end of each level that the Dadish series has. It’s not the most obvious set of games to homage, but Pandaty goes for it.
But Pandaty suffers in the comparison. Dadish is adorably and wittily written, for one, and the dialogue sparkles. In Pandaty, the conversations are loose and abstract, never approaching the quality of Dadish.
It suffers by way of its art, too. Where Dadish is a bit like staring at your spilt skittles on the floor, Pandaty is, well, drab. Taking cues from its monochromatic main character, Pandaty starts with its least colourful set of levels, being grass and ice, and ends up looking a tad brutalist. We found our attention wandering. Who knew that palette could be so important? As the levels progress, new biomes get unlocked like a lava mountain, but you never quite shake the feeling that Pandaty is lifeless.
The controls are fine, with double-jumping being about the only mechanic on offer. We found our little Panda occasionally clipping into walls and platforms, but it was nothing a little jump couldn’t fix: it never led to a crash or restart.
With such simplistic foundations, Pandaty takes the opportunity to make its levels fiendish. Twirling blades circle around, springboards fire you into spikes and cannons need to be negotiated as you loop out of the way of certain doom. The margins are small, and the precision that is needed is pretty damn acute.
Now, your appreciation for Pandaty will depend on your taste for platforming difficulty. We love some Celeste and Super Meat Boy, so we can get behind the odd challenge, as long as it’s fair and rewarding. But Pandaty – at least to our tastes – isn’t quite either.
Blades and spikes often rotate on a random basis. We found on restart that we couldn’t follow the path that we took before our previous death. It’s a small detail, but – because the levels are dense with challenge – it hurt. And death is punishing, because the levels are just a tiny bit too long, absent of checkpoints, and full of punishing sequences. We’d find that we’d cross some platforms for the first time – wahoo! – only to be confronted by something even more fiendish, and then another, and another. It’s a gauntlet that demands patience.
And therein is the rub, right? If you are going to offer Pandaty patience, then you need something in return. And Pandaty doesn’t offer much. There are achievements of course, unlocking in an avalanche, which will make it a recommendation to some. But there are no collectibles or secret areas. The ending sequences are limp. And the procession of grey levels can’t be their own reward either.
We don’t want to put you off completely. For £4.19, this is a near certain 1000G, and the controls – while a vacuum of imagination – are tight enough to get you through. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, and platforming speedrunners might find some fertile soil.
But boy did we need to be cajoled into playing it. Pandaty felt too much like homework we didn’t want to do. Its levels are washed out, the humour seems to come from another planet, and it demands patience and skill without giving much back.
What’s black and white and grey all over? Yeah, it’s Pandaty.
You can buy Pandaty from the Xbox Store