By Louise Yang . February 11, 2008 . 2:47pm
For a game that can be immediately viewed as a Lemmings clone, Downstream Panic is actually fairly fun. Sure, the music and the annoying chipmunk-like voices of the fish get repetitive to the point of me just turning the sound completely off, but I liked guiding mindless fish in water to safety. Unlike Lemmings, where you can designate tasks for individual Lemmings, Downstream Panic has you use specific tools given in the map to guide streams of water and fish from the top of the screen to safe areas on the bottom of the screen.
I thought the game was fun until I came to an almost game-breaking bug in one of the first 10 levels of Adventure Mode. And considering one needs to play through Adventure Mode to open up the other modes (Free Play and Survival), I was pretty angry. It was the first level where I needed to use the harpoon, as the tip before the level helpfully mentioned to me. The problem is, the game didn't give me a harpoon in my tools menu at all — a pretty serious bug if you ask me. After countless of restarts and even deleting my save file and restarting from the beginning of the game, still no harpoon. I finally lucked out by having a fortunate wave of water wash away the enemy that was eating all my fishes.
Subsequent levels were easy after that little bug. I like that the game introduces tools and trigger items a little at a time, never really overwhelming the player with a map with a new tool that's too hard. That doesn't mean the game is easy though. I had to restart a level several times because I couldn't place a plant in the exact location it needed to be in to block some fishes from being eaten.
There's also a Free Play mode, which I found therapeutic once I had enough money earned from the game to buy whatever tools I needed. This mode lets you play previous levels you've passed, but gives you the option to buy tools from a shop. Obviously, I bought a bunch of harpoons and bombs for sweet revenge against enemies that I previously couldn't do anything about.
I mainly stuck to Adventure and Free Play mode, but for those who want even more of a challenge, there's Survival Mode. This lets you play through a series of levels with only a set amount of fishes and once you're out of fish, it's game over.
I can see why Atari didn't market this game more since you know, it has that nasty bug and all, but for a Lemmings clone, it's actually pretty good. Some levels have a lot of pixel-hunting where you have to use tools at the exact spot it's intended to be or else not enough fishes get to safety, but it hasn't been frustrating enough for me to stop playing yet.