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PAIN: Amusement Park
Score: 73%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Idol Minds
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
PAIN: Amusement Park is the first major expansion for PAIN, a game that was polarizing for many gamers. Some loved the ability to catapult characters around a massive city while others, like me, saw it as a fun distraction but not much of a game. The expansion succeeds at giving players more to do, but it is still the same game.

If anything, the new Amusement Park area is a better playground than the tightly-packed city found in the original game. Your goal is still the same - launch people out of a giant slingshot and cause a lot of damage for points, but now there's more to hit. Rides are constantly moving and there are lots of costumed employees to ricochet off of. The core gameplay meshes with the visuals really well. Characters have an over-the-top, cartoon look and feature ragdoll physics, so at the very least, you're guaranteed a nice, wince-inducing landing every time you launch someone into the bright, shiny Vegas-like environments. Even better, you can add any song on your HDD to the mix using the in-game music player.

To their credit, developer Idol Minds has managed to squeeze several play modes out of the game's simple play mechanic. The single-player game includes the standard "bounce around and earn points" mode as well as Clown Toss, which plays exactly like the original's Mime Toss, only instead of tossing white-faced mutes through glass, you're tossing clowns into explosive crates. Another is Hot N Cold, where you try to find a specific exploding teddy bear hidden among hundreds scattered around the park. Before launch, you can get a general direction of where the target bear is by viewing the map. Bears closer to the target are red while more distant ones are blue. Of all the modes available, Hot N Cold is probably the best - mostly because it has an actual goal beyond building up a score on what is essentially one big crapshoot of a mechanic.

PAIN: Amusement Park also adds a handful of multiplayer modes. TRUMA is a variation of HORSE where players try to match each other's launches. The mode is expanded in Call Da' Shot, which is a bit like the old Jordan vs. Bird "...nothing but net" McDonald's commercial. Opponents call a trick shot and bet on whether or not the player will be able to make it. After two tries, the person who set up the course must complete it, or risk losing points. With the right people, Call Da' Shot can be fun, though you'll have to gather up your friends if you want to try it out since there's not online multiplayer.

The only really interesting mode is PainLAB. Each week, new mini-games are uploaded to the PainLAB, which acts as a testing ground for new gameplay ideas that could possibly turn up in future expansions.

PAIN: Amusement Park is just as much a mix of challenge and frustration as the original. High scores are a little easier to come by, though it's rarely because of something you're doing. There's still a high degree of chance in every mode, so even though you have a relatively good idea of what will happen, it is mostly out of your control. The only reason you'll see higher scores is because there's a lot more going on, adding a little more velocity and direction to your initial trajectory and any slight changes you may make by grabbing onto objects or using your "Ouch" ability.

One issue that can cramp up your game is the camera. It tends to get caught up on just about anything and blocks your view. Considering a huge chunk of the gameplay is dependant on you always having a clear view, it is curious that a little more attention wasn't paid to the camera.

Game Mechanics:
Each launch begins with your character in a slingshot. Before sending him on an aerial tour of the park, you can adjust the angle of the shot as well as deciding how much power to pack into it. Once airborne, you can steer him around in the air and perform trick stances by pressing the Left shoulder buttons and face buttons in various combinations. The face buttons can also be used to grab onto objects in the environment.

While airborne, you can use "Ooch" and "Super Ooch" abilities to keep your character flying a little longer after hitting an object. During multiplayer games, you can interfere with your opponent's flight using a Pimp Slap. Hitting a directional button will send your opponent's characters flying, potentially killing their run. You can unintentionally help their run as well. The Pimp Slap is fun during games of TRAUMA, but is essential during Call Da' Shot.

At six bucks, PAIN: Amusement Park is a better value than PAIN. However, the experience is still limited, so unless you really liked the first game or can guarantee that you'll have someone to play with, you might want to pass on PAIN: Amusement Park.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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