There’s an environmental message at the heart of Trash Panic, but it’s a total backfire. The point of this downloadable puzzler is to stack and dispose of trash à la Tetris. It’s a neat premise: Rather than wrangling tetrominoes, would-be waste managers attempt to smash the detritus of society into a compact pile. Junk comes one item at a time—first a pencil, then a coffee mug and a battery. Slam the spent Duracell with the right trajectory, and it’ll smash the ceramic cup. A shake of the motion-sensitive PlayStation 3 controller helps the debris settle. But the game makes green trash disposal seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
It’s damn hard to fill a dump without kicking out a little CO2. In Trash Panic, garbage never disappears, no matter how tightly you cram it into your can. That’s when desperate players will burn their junk to ashes and rack up a nasty emissions bill. Such bonfires are as satisfying as simultaneously clearing four lines in Tetris.
Even better are the moments when something explosive finds its way into your rubbish pile. Each blast hurls a bunch of garbage just far enough to put it out of your hair. Occasionally, an atom bomb winds up in the refuse. Cook that sucker enough, and it mushrooms, sending a destructive shockwave through the surrounding city like a scene out of Sarah Connor’s nightmares. Strangely, such slaughter doesn’t result in game over. War crimes are cool so long as you don’t let three pieces of undamaged junk spill onto the floor.
Beyond the game: Trash Panic won’t set the world on fire, but Sony’s exclusive downloads tend toward the experimental. It’s good enough that this game is odd, interesting, and cheap.
Worth playing for: There’s a Katamari Damacy-style escalation as the levels progress. The first level takes place under an office desk; the last sees mountains and oil fields chucked in the dump.
Frustration sets in when: Played cold, Trash Panic doesn’t give a single hint regarding its rules or requirements. To really get its gist, you’ll have to mine the menus for a couple pages of shabby instructions.
Final judgment: More trash than treasure.