Panic Maker

Capcom's latest is actually more like Unlucky Alf meets Robin Hood in Space. You want details and shots, yes?

Following its unmasking in Famitsu this week, Capcom has revealed more details on Panic Maker, the next game from Viewtiful Joe producer Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Production Studio 4, via an almost completely incomprehensible Japanese website that thankfully we've been able to translate with the help of a friend of a friend.

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It turns out that contrary to what we said yesterday, Panic Maker isn't as simple as defending earth from an alien invasion - with mechanics wrapped up in a quirky sense of humour. Panic Maker, as the title implies, is about inspiring panic, if only by accident.

Taking control of Kozumi, a little blue alien chap curiously reminiscent of Miyamoto's Pikmin (and some strange creation from Bust A Move), you land on earth and then proceed to poke the human race with sticks and generally orchestrate misfortune for the people you meet. Sort of like an intergalactic episode of Candid Camera.

But poor old Kozumi doesn't actually mean any harm. All he wants to do is help. "Annoying mischief star-people" are upsetting things for our species, and Kozumi, who always dreamt of being a hero, merely gives unfortunate people a spot of help wherever he can. The problem though is that his solutions are often worse than the original problem.

By scanning people, the blue fella can work out what they need to get out of their particular rut - what they need, or want they want to be - and thanks to various "prank" items he can literally plonk assistance right into their hands - giving a tazer to a young girl being hassled on the subway, for example, or handing a karaoke microphone to someone who wishes she were a pop star. There's also some mention of fart powder, which quite frankly we're a little worried about...

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Of course, by causing all this mischief, poor old well-meaning Kozumi is then forced to leg it before the angry citizens of earth can exact their misdirected vengeance. Fortunately Kozumi will also find means to disguise himself, presumably having to perform some feat of unrivalled dexterity to get out of sight quickly.

It's difficult to work out how any of this will actually handle to play because the website offers no control specifics, but judging by the screenshots Kozumi will be able to wander around scanning people, observing their "Perfect Change" (i.e. their desired reality), and then implementing it with a little help from his inventory of items. If you click the centre area and then the right-most link that pops up, you can see a small Flash animation vaguely detailing gameplay elements with a few still shots.

Graphically it's not too surprising to see Production Studio 4 sticking to a highly stylised, cel-shaded look clearly inspired by its work on Viewtiful Joe, but unlike that game this one is clearly shot in 3D (and therefore might sell a few copies along the way). What's more, judging by some of the shots it could well be a fixed-perspective job - we all know how much Capcom enjoys those - assuming we're not just looking at the familiar sight of in-engine shots taken from unplayable perspectives for marketing purposes.

As we reported yesterday, Panic Maker is due out on PS2 in Japan this summer, and although Capcom couldn't tell us whether it will make an appearance at E3 in May, we're obviously hoping it does because it looks like exactly our sort of game. In fact, if you don't mind I'm going to run off now and batter Kristan with a microphone while Mark farts in his ear. Ta ra!

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