Back in the day, video games were simple; most early home consoles were standard 8-bit games, in which you could challenge your friends or family for some wholesome fun. With the advance of technology - 3D animation and major budgets for video game developers - it sometimes feels as though we have lost that innocent, arcade-like enjoyment in today’s amazing gaming landscape. NapNok Games have done a wonderful job at keeping that excitement alive with their latest release, Frantics.
Celebratory confetti for your hard-earned victories
Frantics is the latest release for the PlayStation PlayLink system and offers a variety of arcade-style mini-games for you to challenge your friends and family, or just enjoy some classic gameplay. Before we delve into Frantics itself, I am going to look at PlayLink and what all it encompasses.
PlayLink was announced by Sony during their 2017 E3 Conference, and despite not being its own console, it is a fantastic new platform for a refreshing take on gaming. Essentially, a developer will release their title on PlayLink, which you then buy from the standard PSN Store, as you would a normal game.
However, rather than using the Dualshock 4 controller, you will download the relevant app on your smartphone or tablet, turning your mobile device into the controller. The idea behind it is that you can play against friends and family without needing 4 controllers, as everyone simply downloads the app, connects to the same network as the PS4, and you are ready to go.
PlayLink is an innovative take on the party-game niche, allowing anyone with a mobile device and a love of arcade games to get involved without you having to splash out hundreds (ed - more like thousands) of Rands for spare controllers.
Frantics offers fourteen diverse modes for you to choose from for an individual match, or you can choose from a selection of competitions. Frantics is ‘hosted’ by Fox (yup, Fox the fox) – a rather stereotypical, sassy English fox, who provides enough dry humour to put Little Britain to shame.
However, it often feels as though the humour is forced, and had me cringing numerous times. Fox also hosts his own series of modes, which is essentially a random compilation of game modes whereby Fox provides blissful commentary and witty comments.
Fox in his astounding allure
The quirky, miniature animal characters that you play as are cute, adding to the innocent nature of Frantics. They are also a reflection of the game itself – a quirky arcade-style game that strives for nothing more than to make sure its players are having fun. On a side note though, Fox really could use a shave. His appearance is a smidge raggedy, and perhaps choosing a mascot who constantly swirls a glass of whiskey might be flawed considering this is a family-friendly title? Just a thought.
The anthropomorphised fox, who seems to be putting on a poor James Bond emulation, aside, Frantics is quite captivating despite its simplicity. I was reminded of another classic arcade-style title from my PS1 days, Crash Bash. Crash Bash was also comprised of entertaining mini-games, that seemed easy and simple on the surface but offered a challenging enough gameplay mechanic that made it rewarding and satisfying when you clutched that victory.
Clay animals with jetpacks? How could you not love it
There were zero performance issues with Frantics, not that we really expected any to occur, to begin with, but it is still a pleasant experience when you don’t need to deal with unexpected frame drops or crashes. The frame rate was particularly smooth throughout each game mode, and the quality dropped only slightly when playing on a 1920x1080 TV compared to a monitor. Furthermore, the latency between the input from your mobile device and the actions on screen was minimal, practically non-existent.
Each game mode requires various input methods from your mobile device, including swiping up/down and left/right, holding the ‘button’ in, aim and release, and so on.
Don’t let the charming aesthetic fool you, this is still a challenging arcade title. The AI characters may look delightful but they will test you in each game mode, and they don’t give up without a fight. You can shove your foes across a track into obstacles in order for them to lose a heart, which are added together at the end of each round and totalled to give you a score.
Collecting doughnuts with a lance. The Dark Ages was expressed differently in school
When you emerge victorious after each mini-game, you are awarded a crown. As you collect crowns throughout the championships, you can place bets on items to assist you in-game (don’t worry, there is an in-game currency that you collect during your rounds).
As the championship draws to a close, you can select to bid for more crowns in the Grand Finale. This does not cement your victory, but it will give you an advantage as these crowns are then converted to hearts, which are your lives. When you run out of hearts, you lose the game.
The Grand Finale
Frantics stretches further than being a generic cartoon band of beasts, and I found there are some aesthetic similarities between Frantics and Wallace and Gromit. That clay-art style gave a fresh feel in contrast to the realistic, high-polygon look-and-feel that we have come to expect from new video game titles.
Fiesty Mr Fox
As I fell in love with Crash Bash, so I did with Frantics as well. The claymation art style combined with fun, entertaining and almost nostalgic feeling mini-games gives PlayLink some value and life, something that has been somewhat lacking in modern party games. Frantics should definitely be in your library.
Loves games with deep character development and a rich storyline. Also, shooty-shooties. Loathes microtransactions. Likes to use sarcasm and metaphors.
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Sony Computer Entertainment
6 March 2018
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