Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that. It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece. I strongly recommend anyone...
Learning Curve: From 0 to 15 Minutes
Tech Info There are other, more-engaging multiplayer experiences to be had with the Xbox, but at this point, none have the pick-up-and-play appeal of Fuzion Frenzy.
One of the problems that has plagued many a party game, like the Mario Party series or the ill-fated Sonic Shuffle, is the use of a board game to tie all of the minigames together. Seeing how the board game element killed the pacing in Sonic Shuffle and added a massive luck factor to the Mario Party games, Blitz Games has gutted the party game formula and come up with Fuzion Frenzy.
When it comes to playing it, Fuzion Frenzy cuts right to the chase. You and three other players play through a series of random minigames, and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. If you don't have four human contestants, any remaining slots are filled by the very capable AI. The length of the game can be set as a series of eight, 16, or 24 minigames. The games you play are randomly selected from the 45 available, though every fourth stage is always the Fuzion Frenzy game. In this game, you collect orbs for points and attack other players to steal orbs that they've picked up. The number of orbs you can collect is relative to the number of points you put on the line before the game starts. Points that are risked in the Fuzion Frenzy mode are worth more, but another player can attack you and steal your orbs, stripping you of your points entirely. This mode serves as a brute force equalizer and can be a good way to catch up if you're lagging. Unfortunately, it's not the most entertaining game, and playing it up to six times in a single game can get repetitive mighty fast.
This brings us to the meat of Fuzion Frenzy, the minigames. The amount of fun you can have with a party game is directly proportionate to the quantity and quality of its minigames. Fuzion Frenzy has 45 different minigames, though this is a very generous use of the word "different." Many of the minigames are simply another minigame with the rules reversed. In the victim minigame, the player holding the bomb when time runs out will be eliminated until there is only one player left. In "odd one out," the player not holding an orb when time runs out is eliminated. Fuzion Frenzy also comes up short in the quality department, as many of the games simply aren't enough fun to make you want to come back. There are a handful of solid games in the mix, but there also seems to be a lot of filler. Thankfully, Fuzion Frenzy offers a minigame frenzy mode in which you can select any of the 45 minigames you please without the structure of the tournament mode. This is a nice addition that lets you skip right past any minigames that don't fit your fancy and serves as a good way to get yourself acquainted with the rules and strategies of the different games.
A collection of minigames isn't exactly the best way to showcase the graphical prowess of a new console, and while Fuzion Frenzy may not be the most graphically impressive Xbox launch title, it makes use of several of the Xbox's capabilities. There isn't a single minigame in the bunch that doesn't heap on the colored lighting and particle effects. The use of vibrant primary color helps create a distinct look for the game. The arenas have a good level of detail, and the high-resolution textures look nice and sharp. But with all the glimmer that Blitz Games has put into Fuzion Frenzy, the game is unable to maintain a constant frame rate, and you'll see the action start to chug in some of the more special-effects-intensive games. The occasional slowdown aside, Fuzion Frenzy is still an incredibly flashy party game.
The sound in Fuzion Frenzy is one of the more commendable components of the game. A fusion of upbeat techno, funk, and hip-hop breakbeats, the soundtrack has a decidedly urban feel to it and serves as a nice backdrop for the frantic action onscreen. Characters will talk smack to each other during and after a game, which nicely complements the smack you'll be talking to your real-life competitors. There are some other nice little aural touches throughout the game, like a little Atari-style ditty playing at the end of minigames that are reminiscent of certain 2600 games.
Though far from perfect, Fuzion Frenzy can be fun for short periods of time. The longest game will last about 45 minutes, at the end of which you'll have little desire to come back for more. There are other, more-engaging multiplayer experiences to be had with the Xbox, but at this point, none have the pick-up-and-play appeal of Fuzion Frenzy.