A nice, cheap, fun adventure is hardly something a gamer can pass up. Thanks to the thriving online networks (PSN and Xbox Live) people get a chance to see small developers strut their stuff. The Fancy Pants Adventures is one of those 'stuff' that a small developer, Borne Games, has indeed strutted.
The question is, can this $9.99 game entertain from beginning to end? Come find out...
Taking a page out of Scribblenauts, our main hero (Fancy Pants) is a faceless stick figure that wears 'fancy' pants, thus the clever name. His mission is to go through various levels and landscapes trying to save his little sister from a band of evil pirates. Along the way he faces off against spiders, bats, crabs, mice armed with guns, sword wielding pirates and tiny ninjas. With the ability to dispose of these creatures via rolling, sliding, jumping and penciling, our hero does what he can to get through his treacherous adventure.
The concept behind The Fancy Pants Adventures is nothing new. Harking back to the days of NES side-scrollers, the game goes quickly from point A to point B without much stopping to enjoy the scenery. In general, the gameplay is pretty straightforward, as FP simply jumps, bobs and weaves through various levels trying to find an exit or fight a boss. Is it inspired design? Not really. The most you get out of the levels is a lot of wall climbing, just like a martial artist straight out of a film, and variety of other simple level designs (springs, curvy walls to run and jump out of like in Sonic the Hedgehog). In other words, there's nothing incredibly clever about the design; it's purely simple. Now before you go and read this the wrong way, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this type of design for a young developer and a PSN/Xbox Live game. Just don't go into it expecting something huge and complicated because that's not the theme of the game. Much like its art style, which is stick figure, Borne Games has brought an equally simplified world. Just expect small levels that were made for jumping and running quickly through them.
With that said, let's talk about that 'jumping and running'. If I have to knock the game for anything in particular it would have to be the loosey-goosey controls that it sports. Expect delayed button reaction (especially when you acquire the pencil) and frustrating precision. The biggest issue I had between the two was the precision of the control response. There were times where I would want to stop at a particular point and FP just slid right past it. Sometimes it would be okay for the slide, sometimes it would mean sliding right into an enemy. Other times, especially when you get to the timed levels it would mean starting over and over again. The lack of precise control of the character's movement resulted in multiple 'Jesus Christ!' outbursts. I'm not sure a game has had me take the Lord's name in vain that many times, but this one certainly had to be close to breaking that personal record. There were multiple times were I wanted FP to stop and fall off a ledge so that I could progress to the level below, but due to lack of stopping the game generally had our main character decide, on his own, to hang on to the ledge instead. You would figure that at this point I could simply press down and our guy would fall right down the ledge perfectly, but regretfully I had to jump off the ledge (which led to other problems). There were so many moments like this and I thought that eventually these loose controls would tighten up or that I would simply 'get' what I was doing wrong. Again, regretfully the tightening and the 'get' never happened, so I was left with just dealing with it until the end of the game.
Before I go any further with other elements you should know that this lack of control tightening isn't a deal breaker for this game. You can still have some fun in The Fancy Pants Adventures despite the control issue. I think that Borne Games should release some sort of patch or at least work on making this aspect better when they make a sequel (and hopefully they do). As a reviewer, I have to have the patience to work through this. I cannot say the same for gamers, who come from a generation of 'get it right or we'll move on'. With that said, the controls are definitely an issue.
Now, if you can work past the control issues what you will find is a entertainingly cute game. Getting back to opening of the review, the game certainly takes a page from Scribblenauts in terms of style. The levels are part 2D and part 3D (not the 'new' 3D, but actual depth in objects). They rarely show detail and they look as simple and hand drawn as our hero. You mostly get a series of platforms and springs. Level design aside, the creatures actually make the game fun to watch. The funniest creatures in the game have to be the spiders. If you can picture a third grader drawing a spider then you have the spider. It's cute, funny and perfect for the style of the game. My kids adored the style and laughed when they saw new enemies. For example, when they saw the mouse with the gun for the first time they couldn't stop laughing. The mouse was only rivaled by the tiny ninjas that you encounter towards the end of the adventure, which my oldest daughter (she's 8) still talks about. The design of the game is colorful and fun, which suits me just fine.
So is the game worth the price you pay? Without a doubt I would have paid for this game had I not received it for free. It's a fun game that has some good depth to it. I completed the game in 3-5 hours. Having stated that I didn't complete the entire game, as it has hidden spots and levels within the main game. On top of these side quests, you also have the ability to unlock an arcade game that features different mini-games within it. For example, you can unlock races for FP to play inside the arcade game. You can also unlock other mini-games that include golf and a combo gathering game (how many combos can you get type of deal). In addition to this you can also customize Fancy Pants in various costumes, masks and pants. Borne Games and EA bring a lot of value to the $9.99 game. The only thing I can't tell you about is the online multiplayer, which is unavailable thanks to PSN currently not working.