Mario Party is one of the founding fathers of the party game genre. Thanks to the way it blends luck and skill-based gameplay, it’s always been a personal favourite of mine.
Although the genre has mostly shifted to trivia titles, Frantics keeps the party minigame style alive. It won’t go down as the “Mario Party killer” but it does make for a good time with friends, even those who only casually play video games.
Frantics is Sony’s latest title to release in their PlayLink lineup. Up to four people can get together, linking their smartphones or tablets which act as controllers. Each player selects one from a variety of animals to represent them as a sassy fox guides them through an assortment of minigames, handing out crowns to the winner of each game. It’s a lot simpler than Mario Party, eliminating all the board game elements and focusing strictly on the minigames. This also means that games won’t take anywhere as long, lasting for around thirty to forty-five minutes.
There’s a lot of charm to be found in Frantics’ wacky cartoonish aesthetic. All of the playable animals carry these goofy expressions, dragging and squishing their bodies whenever they move. The fox character is especially entertaining, having a ton of unique voiced lines throughout the game that poke fun at the players. The game’s environments are slightly more basic, mainly taking place in small arenas following the themes of different nations. The only problem I had with Frantics’ presentation was in-between minigames. All four characters are seen walking on a mostly empty white background as the head toward the game’s end area. Considering how well the visuals pop, it almost feels unfinished when so much time is spent walking along a blank canvas.
With a smartphone for a controller, the control options in Frantics’ minigames are limited to what you would expect from a mobile game. In many cases, players will have to tilt their phones in different directions to guide their characters, but a few games will have players swiping or dragging their fingers to perform actions. This can lead to several the games feeling a little too similar at times. There are other elements to Frantics however which fit perfectly in the context of using a phone. In-between minigames, players can randomly get a call from the fox, offering them a secret mission to try and fulfil for the next game to guarantee them a crown. It’s a cool concept that I wish was utilized more often as opposed to the rare times that it happened.
The main problem with Frantics is its grand finale. The final minigame of any Frantics party is a free-for-all match where players need to be the last one standing on a constantly crumbling platform with each of their previously earned crowns acting as extra lives. While I liked the idea of my hard-earned crowns giving me the edge in the last game, I couldn’t help but feel that all the other minigames were pointless after learning that the last minigame determines everything. It also feels completely anticlimactic when there are other minigames that play the exact same way. The biggest problem with the grand finale is that it can be seriously unbalanced at times. During each game, players can collect coins which can be used to buy powerups or crowns at certain points. The grand finale grants each player one powerup relating to each of the four minigames played previously. Some of these items make the grand finale almost impossible to lose. The dynamite for instance, passes a bomb around to players who come in contact with each other. Because it can’t be passed back to the original user though, it serves an instant win when there is only one other person. Unfortunately, there are several items which can break the finale this way.
Frantics straddles the line between being a fun party game and compilation of basic mobile apps. In most cases, Frantics offers a fun time and should be able to offer a group a few fun rounds before becoming stale. The game won’t win any prizes for originality and the final game can be potentially unfair, but it’s still worth checking out. Frantics definitely won’t replace titles like Mario Party anytime soon but it does offer a nice change of pace for casual gamers in need of a quick party game.