It’s like Mario Party for Playstation.
I love Mario Party. I’ve always been fond of throttling my good friends during a few soul-crushing mini-games, or stealing stars from them so frequently that it actually tests the depths of our friendship. So when it comes to Frantics, I can see the valiant attempt to create a Mario Party style game for the Playstation.
Frantics is part of the Playlink series from Playstation, which is a group of games that uses players’ smartphones as controllers. First, you must download the Frantics app from the app store of your choosing. Once your PS4 game and the app are synced, the game will start. You open on a brandy-wielding fox (the aptly named, Fox) who quickly runs down the basics of the game. You go through a quick “character creation” phase in which you take a selfie and a random animal avatar is assigned to you, and off you go.
The graphics left little to be desired as far as I was concerned. The claymation aesthetic doesn’t sit well with me personally since seeing Pee-wee’s Big Adventure as a young, impressionable child (thanks a lot, Large Marge), so this experience was vaguely traumatic for me. Also, the poorly dubbed Fox was uncanny at best. The syncing was actually so far off that I had to wonder if it was done intentionally. Your animal avatars aren’t much better with their gaping, googly-eyed nonsense and mumbled gibberish (although the dog character was quite cute).
Frantics allows for up to four players at once (although if you have fewer than four, the game supplements some AI characters). Right after character creation, you’re taken to a tutorial version of the main game, where you compete in three mini-games (the full version of the game has four, but there’s an option to customise this for longer play). The mini-games are typically time-limit based activities done in rounds. The player with the most overall points at the end of the rounds wins a crown. The player with the most crowns at the end of all of the games wins. While there aren’t many mini-games overall, there are a few gems worth noting.
Some of these games will be familiar to veteran console-party gamers, namely Parachuchu and Chair Riots. In Parachuchu, it’s all about timing. You all leap off of a cliff and the first person to land safely on the ground is the winner. You have to time your parachute opening just right so that you don’t splat on the ground, but still land faster than your opponents. Chair Riots plays a bit like bocce, or curling. You have to shoot your avatar across a small course to land on a bullseye. The closest player to the bullseye at the end of each round wins. However, other characters can bounce you away, or hop closer to the bullseye between turns. Eventually they can even plant bombs on the ground that will blow you off the course if you get too close.
One of my personal favourites was Tour deFrantics, a bicycle racing game in which you to tap on your phone to make your character pedal. The catch is, the faster you tap, the faster you go, but the less on target you will be. You have to vary your taps to stay on course while maintaining speed to beat your opponents. An interesting touch is that once an opponent is knocked out of the race, he or she can attack the players still in the game by freezing them in place for a few precious seconds. This is a common trait among all of the mini-games.
There’s also a neat twist involving secret missions bestowed to certain players. I received such a call from the Fox, then a subsequent text suggesting that I help another character win the next game. If I succeeded, I would be awarded with a crown. Rather than help the other animal win, I just decided to win the game myself, which you can do with no penalty.
Frantics is a decent party game in the right atmosphere. It’s rather forgiving, not nearly as frustrating cruel as Mario Party. And this is fine, considering the age rating of 3+. I also had no difficulty using my phone as the controller, despite a few moments where pulling off complete turns didn’t seem to work consistently. The price tag might be the only thing that could repel some potential players, as there isn’t enough material to justify paying €19.99. However, if you have young kids (who aren’t terrified of claymation), this would be a suitable game that all the family can enjoy.