When Brad Borne first announced back in November that his successful Flash series Fancy Pants Adventures would be coming to consoles, a myriad of thoughts arose in my mind.
The first two games lent themselves well to the Flash medium and, despite their rather plain artistic style, garnered a tremendous amount of praise for their unique momentum-based gameplay mechanic and fun and inventive level design. The simplistic look of the game alone, however, may have been enough to question why EA chose to showcase this as part of their small but growing collection of 2D console games.
The real question on everyone's minds, though, is 'does the third installment in the Fancy Pants series provide enough of an improvement to justify a console purchase or is it just more of the same?' Hit the jump to find out.
Fancy Pants Adventures (PSN, XBLA [Previewed])
Developer: Over the Top Games & Borne Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts 2D
To Be Released: April 19th, 2011 (PSN), April 20th, 2011 (XBLA)
When I spoke with Borne back in February at EA’s GDC event, he explained how surreal the experience of bringing his beloved game to consoles has been. The series, which celebrated its 5-year anniversary last month, has not seen a new sequel since 2008.
As Borne explained, the story of the third game focuses on Fancy Pants Man’s little sister, Cutie Pants Girl, who gets captured by pirates. Fancy Pants Man must venture outside of Squiggleville, through dangerous mountains, treacherous caverns, and deadly waters and battle with snails, crabs, and of course, pirates, in order to find her and bring her back.
Much like in the Flash games, the levels are built around the mechanics of the gameplay. Every platform is deliberately placed and designed to assist you in some way or another. Whether it’s jumping from platform to platform in the air, sliding up a ramp into a 180-degree loop, or scaling tall buildings, the possibilities for movement never fail to keep you on your toes. The key is momentum. The longer you run, the more momentum you gain, and the farther you can jump and slide. Every surface in the game is slick enough to slide on, which comes in handy for killing enemies.
One aspect of the game its creator is particularly excited for is the addition of a multiplayer mode. Up to four people can play together now, working together to complete levels or competing against one another. A variety of multiplayer levels have been added that employ techniques used in single player levels, along with a few unique challenges as well.
There are several options when playing in arcade versus mode. Often times, it’s a simple race to the finish line. However, there is a special King of the Hill level where players must scramble to gather more squiggles than anybody else in an allotted amount of time. The gameplay in this mode bears a lot of resemblance to that of Super Smash Bros., in both physics and sheer chaos. The golf level from the second game also makes a reappearance in the third game as a multiplayer level where players work together to move a golf ball from the beginning of the level to a hole at the end. Players are awarded 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place with prizes that range from wacky colored pants to silly hats to makeshift weapons.
Make no mistake, the game will become increasingly difficult the more players you add. With only the color of your pants and possibly a funny hat distinguishing you from your opponents, it can be hard to spot your impossibly tiny character in an enormous level with three other players that look almost exactly the same as you. Which is not to say that the game isn’t fun in multiplayer. Quite the opposite, in fact. I demoed most of the game with three other players and I had a blast. I just wouldn’t consider it better than the single player, nor would I purchase the game based on its multiplayer mode alone.
Speaking to that, one thing you’ll notice is that Fancy Pants Adventures is bigger than its two previous versions, in all aspects of the word. The levels themselves are larger and many are downright cavernous, allowing for a lot more fast-paced movement and airtime and ultimately providing what I feel is the most valuable addition to the game: space.
It’s also much longer. With two hours of updated levels, four hours of new levels, and two hours of gold challenges, the game comes in at around eight hours total. (For comparison, I beat the first two games in less than two hours.) This can quickly become longer, though, if you choose to play through all of the additional challenges included in the game. Every level can be replayed in a timed mode, for example, adding several hours of playtime.
Of course, all this work could not have been done by Borne alone. He has been working with developers at Over the Top Games, a small, 4-man team based in Spain, whose previous titles include NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits and Dive: The Medes Islands Secret. Both teams are working hard to ready the game for consoles, after which point, Borne notes on his blog, he will resume working on the next Flash version of the game.
The Fancy Pants Adventures hits PSN on April 19th and XBLA on April 20th for $10. If you were a fan of the original games and have been waiting for a sequel, you won’t be disappointed. If you never played the original games and are curious about this one, I highly recommend giving the Flash versions a spin first.
Borne assures readers on his blog that "FPA on console is going to be the best way to adventure as Fancy Pants Man – Full screen on your TV, played with a controller – that’s the old school way to play platformers."
I certainly can't argue that. While $10 is admittedly inexpensive for the amount of gameplay this title provides, at the end of the day, you’re still playing a video game about stick figures. Albeit, a pretty damn good one.