C'mon baby, light my fireworks.
A thousand years ago, the Chinese invented fireworks to scare off evil spirits. I don't know if the evil spirits are still scared by the noisemakers, but modern fireworks are definitely able to scare the pants off of fire departments everywhere.
Due to increasingly stringent laws prohibiting fireworks, many pyromaniacs have been left out in the cold without so much as a sparkler to light. Fortunately, Sony has come up with a way to set off fireworks while keeping all your digits intact. It's fast, it's furious, it's Fantavision!
So what exactly is Fantavision? Well, if the intro movie is any indication, Fantavision is some kind of old school fireworks television show. Families would gather round the idiot box and stare mindlessly at a fireworks display. I guess nothing goes better with a TV dinner than random explosions.
At a glance, Fantavision looks like an extremely colorful and backward version of the classic game, Missile Command. It is also impossible to figure out what is going on by just watching. That, however, doesn't mean that the game is hard to pick up. The button mashing style of many fighting games seems to work quite well. I mean, how hard can it be to blow stuff up?
In actuality, Fantavision is a puzzle game that has players connecting colored flares and detonating them against the backdrop of a night sky. Think of it as an extremely fast paced game of connect-the-dots, where you have colors instead of numbers. As the flares shoot up, you must "capture" at least three of the same color (by clicking on them with the cursor) before you are able to detonate them. Don't take too long, though, because eventually the flares will fizzle out. When this happens, you lose some of your "life." Pretty simple, eh?
When you finally get the hang of it, the Fantavision madness multiplies. Flares shoot up at a rapid pace and connecting them can only be done in a frenzied state of firework fury. What was once a simple and easy to understand process has now been transformed into a frantic dash to detonate as many flares as you can.
Fantavision is definitely a pretty game, but there's not a whole lot going on besides the fireworks. A cityscape and a space station are just a few of the backdrops for the light show, but they only serve to take up some room and determine which way is 'down.'
The game sounds unique, but the gameplay is really just a fancy looking puzzler. In this sense, it suffers from what many average puzzle games suffer from - lack of depth. Fantavision just won't keep you up at night like Super Puzzle Fighter.
If you're fortunate enough to have a buddy who isn't afraid to try bizarre new things, Fantavision's two-player mode can provide some truly hectic entertainment. Instead of just having to worry about the fireworks, players now must fight for control of the sky. Controlling a larger amount of sky will give you the ability to detonate more of the flares on screen. Special items are also thrown into the fray, giving players the ability to expand their sky territory or even switch it with their opponent's. This mode is even more insane than the single player game. With seemingly a million things going on at once, both players will have their firework cut out for them.
While setting off your pyrotechnics, an announcer keeps players up to date on their current streak in the most boring, uninterested voice you'll ever hear. This guy's so dull he could put rocks to sleep. I'm still trying to find his little announcer's booth, so I can send a few rockets his way.
After you've completed a level, you'll be given the option to save your performance. Enter the replay mode, and you'll be able to take a cinematic look back at your work. You can view the show from several different camera angles and even control the weather. On top of all this, players can add visual effects for an even more spectacular visual treat...though it might also induce a seizure.
When the lights have faded and the explosions cease, Fantavision turns out to be a truly odd little puzzle game. Chances are pretty good that you'll feel this game should have been packaged along with the PS2. While it tries to take a different gameplay approach, the result is something that is so frantic, players will have a tough time figuring out what exactly is going on...and that's a puzzle we can do without.