Well all love our deep, lengthy video game adventures, but sometimes it’s more fun to just sick back with a few of your friends and have some quick, meaningless fun. This is where the party game comes in with genre standouts like Mario Party and the various Jackbox Party Pack collections setting high bars for any new contestants. Frantics, which utilizes the somewhat new PlayLink feature for PS4, takes a lot of ideas from these seminal titles, mixing them up a bit and adding in its own presentation touches. But while it learns from its predecessors in many ways, the most important lessons seem to have been lost. This results in a passable, but ultimately uninteresting party title that is only worth a look for a select few.
Frantics pits up to four players against each other in a battle royale party game frenzy where they’ll earn crowns and coins with the goal being to accumulate the most crowns by the end of the game. They do this by playing through a number of randomly selected mini-games, which range from freerunning to timed button presses to pretty much anything you’ve come to expect out of games like this. There’s a decent amount of variety on display here, but the overall selection won’t surprise anyone who’s played a solid party game over the last few years. You’ve got the obstacle avoiding race, the timed parachute deployment, the melee battle on top of a crumbling piece of ice.
What makes Frantics stand out from the usual pack is its PlayLink implementation, which lets players control their character via their cell phone. If you’ve played the Jackbox Party Pack titles you may have something in mind already, but it would be wrong. Frantics goes way beyond the drawing and selecting seen in those games. Every sensor is utilized here, with the most prominent being the phone’s gyro which is often used for movement. Other games will have you swiping across your screen to move or act, and then there’s some more surprises tucked away, like the selfie you take as your player icon.
What makes Frantics stand out from the usual pack is its PlayLink implementation
All of this added functionality that you get from using a phone is nice, but once you step away from the novelty of it it feels a bit like a missed opportunity. There are few, if any games that actually use the phone in a unique way. It’s mostly just the usual party game fare, which could have used controllers, often to better effect. Tilting your phone is interesting for a little while, but soon you’ll start thinking about how much faster and more precise the controls would be with an analog stick and buttons. If you don’t own four controllers then it’s still a nice feature, as everyone who might want to play almost certainly already has a phone that can use the free app, but since the player count is still limited to four, it feels like a gimmick rather than the real enhancement we’ve seen from other party games that used a similar method.
This would be fine though if the mini-games themselves were a revelation, but as already mentioned they mostly stick to the usual tropes. There’s also not a wide variety on offer, so even with just a few full playthroughs of the main mode you will likely encounter repeats. If the games were a ridiculous amount of fun that would be passable, but they’re mostly middle of the road in quality. What really holds them back, especially early on is how slow everything feels in Frantics, which is surprising given the name.
Yes, Frantics is lacking in the very thing it should have an abundance of: frenetic action. The game’s presentation seems charming, but the slow pace of dialogue combines with the sarcastic tone to create a very odd feeling for a party game. It’s not quite clear what audience Frantics is aiming for. Its colorful, cartoony, and hand-crafted presentation points to a kids game, as does the simple and overly explained mini-games. But the fox who hosts everything just doesn’t talk like he’s presenting to children. There’s some dry humor here, and everything moves quite slowly, breaking up the action too much to hold young players’ attention.
It became quite clear that this party game was in no hurry when it forced a full, thorough, and jarring explanation of each of its mini-games upon first playing it. Sure, the games need some explaining, especially for new players, but I’d rather have it as an option and something I can browse quickly, rather than throwing me into the game then stopping and starting as it forces me to learn the intricacies. Party Games are built on replay, so my first time with a game should be short and fun, and I can learn the real deep strategies later.
Despite all of this, Frantics is still a halfway decent party game experience, especially if you haven’t kept up on the latest releases in the genre. The game’s slow pace does detract from what should have been a “frantic” experience, but once you settle into the mood it seems to be trying to create, it can still elicit some laughs and good times. There’s better party games out there, but there is something fresh here thanks to the PlayLink functionality. If you lack the four controllers you’d require for other party games, this could be the one for you.
Frantics fails to live up to its name by featuring an oddly slow pace. Beyond that it’s not a fantastic party game experience, full of the same sorts of mini-games seen in past titles within the genre. Still, it works well thanks to the PlayLink functionality that allows you to use a smartphone as a controller. If you’re dying for a party game for your PS4, it fits the bill, but there are better options out there.
- Available On: PlayStation 4
- Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developed By: NapNok Games
- Genre: Party
- US Release Date: March 6th, 2018
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
- Quote: "Frantics fails to live up to its name by featuring an oddly slow pace. Beyond that it's not a fantastic party game experience, full of the same sorts of mini-games seen in past titles within the genre. Still, it works well thanks to the PlayLink functionality that allows you to use a smartphone as a controller. If you're dying for a party game for your PS4, it fits the bill, but there are better options out there."
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