Yep--sex still sells, whether the products are frozen dinners, minivans, or CD-ROMs. So what better way to move a new multimedia title than to insinuate that, for a mere $59.95, even the geeks among us can "interact" with an honest-to-goodness Hollywood starlet?
Panic in the Park (WarnerActive, for PC) offers the lust-struck gamer the actress (and former Playboy centerfold) Erika Eleniak. Don't fret if you've never heard of her--it's her Californian good looks that should be familiar. She played the heroine in 1992's Under Siege and Elly May in 1993's The Beverly Hillbillies. The way Eleniak's face is plastered all over Panic's packaging, you can't help but expect a little va-va-va-voom--which means you're bound to be let down by the game's utter lack of sexiness or glamour.
Eleniak plays it straight in the dual roles of Jamie and Janie, twin daughters of a recently deceased amusement park owner. As you learn through her grainy video monologues, Jamie is as sweet and virtuous as Mary Ann, Janie as determined to get what she wants as Ginger--and they're both eager to control the fate of their late daddy's run-down Shangri-la. That's where you come in, as a reporter with the goal of helping out the sweet one by scrolling around the amusement park to the accompaniment of tinkly fun-house calliope music, mining clues from zoot-suited sharpies and game operators regarding the whereabouts of the park's missing deed.
It's a shame that these often humorous video tete-a-tetes with the dubious denizens of the park are such a minor part of Panic. However, this mediocre detective adventure mostly consists of about a dozen snooze-worthy animated carnival games (shoot a water gun into a clown's mouth, toss darts at balloons, etc.) better suited to the age of Pong than to that of virtual reality. Once you've negotiated a novel ty game, you get to hear a noninteractive spiel from that game's oddball concessionaire. Most frustrating of all is that, in the end, finding the long-lost deed turns out to be less the just reward of a long quest than a bone thrown to players for having put up with so much tedium along the way. And of course, as any skeptic must have guessed by now, there's too little Eleniak and too much shuffle puck.