You have to treat garbage with the utmost respect in Trash Panic. This unique puzzle game will throw plenty of detritus at you, and you'll have to carefully consider each piece to gauge what effect it will have on your trash can's compactness as you try to cram as much junk in there as humanly possible. You'll feel a real sense of achievement as you clear seemingly insurmountable amounts of garbage, although this reward will come only with patience, skill, and careful planning. This makes the game's occasional level-wrecking physics quirks even more galling when they happen, and will probably cause some players to abandon the game out of sheer frustration. But those who stick with Trash Panic will find it a challenging and addictive experience, and though it doesn't have the long-term appeal of the giants in the puzzle genre, it still ranks as one of the better mind-benders available on the PlayStation Network.
Tetris may be the most oft-compared game to Trash Panic, but the similarities begin and end at the two games' rectangular play fields. There are no lines to clear or gems to match here; instead, you're given a set amount of garbage, and it's up to you to fit all of the steadily falling junk into a trash can. Most of the time, you'll do this by breaking and compacting garbage, with each piece having its own unique physical properties. For example, if you smash a light bulb, it will easily break into pieces, but harder items such as computers, rocks, and even entire mountains will take several hits from other tough objects before they crack. Other items such as mattresses, erasers, and clouds don't break at all and will have to be carefully managed to take up the least amount of space. If three objects fall out of your can, it's game over. The sheer variety of junk that you'll come across in Trash Panic is impressive, with the items getting larger in every level of the game. By the time you reach the secret sixth stage, your garbage can literally covers most of the northern hemisphere of the globe. You'll start off with common office and household items such as pens, lighters, and ovens; move up to larger items such as cars and barrels; and eventually tackle behemoths such as buildings, entire dams, giant squids, and even orbiting space stations.
Occasionally, firelit objects, explosives, or special decomposition balls will appear, letting you more quickly dispose of broken trash. These are--for the most part--rare occurrences, and you'll need to plan for them to maximize their destructive capabilities. For example, decomposition balls need plenty of water to operate, so you'll need to make sure you break enough water-bearing objects by the time the ball arrives, as well as have a clear path for the ball to reach water. Fire is also extremely useful, but you'll need accelerants such as flammable objects or even oil to make sure that the fire spreads and destroys as much as possible.
When you do get a fire going, holding down the L2 button on the controller will close your trash can's lid, allowing the heat to rise and the fire to spread (although closing the lid for too long will deprive the can of oxygen and consequently douse any bonfires that you may have lit). The rest of Trash Panic's controls are similarly simple. As garbage falls into your can, you can position it left or right, rotate it with the X or circle button, and press the triangle to cause it to slam down hard. If your garbage pile is filled with gaps, a quick waggle of the controller will shake the trash, hopefully closing up any pesky holes.
Although the controls are simple, you'll have to come up with some pretty complex strategies to get past Trash Panic's levels, and the game is at its most compelling here. Dropping in items without forethought will simply not do; you'll need to have an object-by-object plan to succeed. In fact, in the game's later stages, one misplaced object or unbroken piece of trash can result in disaster, making an entire level a failure. For instance, in Trash Panic's sixth level, a fiery comet will appear only once. If you fail to create a clear path to something flammable when this comet comes, your sole chance of clearing the level goes up in smoke.