The latest title in PlayStation’s PlayLink stable is Frantics. To write a Frantics review I had to enlist the help of my wife daughter, neither of whom are gamers.
They are both fans of PlayLink titles though. Being able to use their smartphones as a controller, take selfies and compete against each other really makes a difference in their enthusiasm.
Both of them rarely, if ever, play traditional games with me, but both of them are always keen to play PlayLink games.
That right there is a testament to the PlayLink brand. It’s a perfect platform for casual players, families and parties.
Frantics is essentially Mario Party. It’s a party game where up to four players compete against each other in a variety of weird and whacky mini-games.
Instead of starring Nintendo’s most famous mascots though, it features an array of anthropomorphic claymation animals. And rather than controlling the game with a controller, you use your phone.
The games are largely motion controlled, with a smattering of button presses and swipes. Thankfully, the motion controls tend to work smoothly. It’s not always perfect though. Oftentimes my crazy critter simply refused to obey my tilting and I’d end up losing a round.
Even when control issues did arise, losing a round didn’t seem like such a big deal. Frantics moves at a lightning pace, so there’s no time to dwell on losses or gloat over wins. If you do, you’re going to miss what’s going on and end up out of the loop.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The collection of mini-games in Frantics is one of its biggest strengths. The other being the wonderful claymation visuals, but more on that later.
Every mini-game in Frantics pits players against each other. If you don’t have at least three human players, you’ll have your numbers filled out by AI. It’s a much less enjoyable way to play, but it’s better than playing alone.
Honestly, you’re better off waiting until you have three or four players, that’s when Frantics is at its best.
Mini-games include races, battle royales, pass the bomb and other fairly standard competitions. But then there are other more creative games like jetpack races, a parachuting contest, lawn bowls on office chairs and bouncing on a hoppit.
A lot of the mini-games will have one form of elimination or other. But those players who’re eliminated need not turn to Facebook until the round ends. Instead, they’re given the ability to sabotage other players.
They can freeze others in place, hit them with Hot Sauce which reverses their controls, cause an earthquake and make holes in the ground and more.
These acts of sabotage can make or break a round and when you lose because your wife froze you, you’ll swear bloody revenge.
Frantics tick tick tick tick tick tock
Sabotage isn’t all there is by way of additional gameplay. During the game, you may receive a ‘phone call’ from the Fox with a secret mission. These include things like helping another player win, making them lose, performing a certain action etc.
Completing your secret mission will see you rewarded with coins. You can also collect coins during mini-games and Fox will give out coins to a random player at the end of each game.
The coins have one purpose, to buy items during the in-game auctions. These items are used to give you an edge in the mini-games, but you won’t want to spend all your coins before the final game.
The last mini-game is always a royal rumble where players need to be the last one standing. Four items will be offered up for auction based on the preceding mini-games. If you don’t have enough coins to bid you’ll still be given an item, but it’s unlikely you’ll get the one you want or even one that’s very useful.
Playing Frantics is lots of fun, but it’s also a lot of fun to look at. The claymation visuals are eccentric and stylised in a way that makes them look like offshoots of Wallace & Gromit.
Everything looks squishy and pliable. There are fingerprints in the clay, cuts and scratches and a general air of whimsy and joviality. Frantics is certainly a game that doesn’t take itself seriously and the visuals are a perfect representation of that.
When you join a game, you’ll be randomly assigned a character, but you’re able to morph it into a variety of different shapes by shaking your phone.
As you complete games, you’ll unlock costumes for the creatures and I’d be really surprised if you can look at these cute weirdos wearing a hat and sunglasses and not laugh.
PlayStation’s PlayLink games have been hit and miss so far, but Frantics is certainly a hit.
It’s easy to control, fun to play and a blast with friends and family. It’s not the deepest of gameplay experiences, but it’ll surely have you laughing.
There’s a real level of care and effort that’s gone into developing Frantics and it really shines through. The games are simple but hilarious and the claymation visuals really draw the entire package together.
For $25 AUD you could certainly do worse in the entertainment stakes. Get some friends together, have a few drinks, some laughs and enjoy the ridiculous fun that is Frantics.
Frantics was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided to PowerUp! by PlayStation Australia.
Game title: Frantics
Great party game for the family - 8/10
Playing with less than 4 people isn't great - 7/10
Controlling via mobile phone isn't perfect - 6/10