Frantix Review

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Graphics: 7.0
Sound : 6.5
Gameplay : 5.5
Multiplayer : N/A
Overall : 6.3
Review by Andy Levine
Frantix is an intuitive 3D puzzle game from Sony Online Entertainment that requires the player to collect gems in order to advance through the various worlds. Taking control of a few generic heroes, you’ll have to overcome a series of environmental obstacles while avoiding enemies set out on thwarting your gem collecting scheme. There isn’t much of a story behind Frantix, and although the levels are challenging and most are cleverly designed, the overall blandness of Frantix will leave even the most avid puzzle gamers wanting more.

The sole game mode in Frantix is the single player campaign, which is essentially a series of puzzles one after another, 185 challenges in all. As you complete challenges, more worlds and heroes become unlocked for some needed variety. The worlds, specifically the environments, play a crucial role in gameplay—you’ll have to cross rivers in lush jungle settings, and avoid bubbling lava flows in more demonic areas. Choosing a different hero to play as has no impact on the puzzles whatsoever, but each creature comes with their own sounds effects and animations, adding a minor aspect of variety.
Once you’ve selected your hero, a few brief tutorial missions introduce you to the gameplay mechanics. In order to solve a puzzle, a player must gain access to the final portal by collecting all of the available gems. While the earlier levels have gems in your direct walking path, as the game progresses you will have to work against the environment to obtain every last gem. For example, your hero will sink in quicksand if you don’t move fast enough, and if you reverse your direction, you’ll have to clear the new path of hazards before you cross. Water hazards can be overcome by pushing crate-type objects in as a stepping stones, but rivers of lava will destroy anything they come in contact with.

In addition to the dangers of the levels, sometimes enemies populate the puzzles, such as a pack of roaming rats or giant stone bodyguards. Each enemy has its own way of moving, so it’s up to you to observe how each member of the opposition moves so you don’t cross paths. Also, some levels have gems with different colors, which are used to open corresponding doors, opening up new sections of the level.
While completing one puzzle will allow you to move on, each level has a golden gem challenge where you must collect all of the gems under a certain amount of time. The only real incentive to play a puzzle again is to earn the gold gem, but once you’ve obtained it there isn’t any reason to revisit earlier levels. As a result, Frantix’s replay value is poor, and if you manage to make it through the entire game there isn’t much to warrant a second play-through.

As far as the actual puzzle-solving goes Frantix offers many challenging scenarios, but after a while the buggy controls and lack of variety take away from what could’ve been a solid puzzler. You hero is controlled through the directional pad, but the unresponsive movement can make just walking around a difficult task. There seems to be a lag effect that makes it difficult to walk around the map without going a step too far, which can easily overthrow your plan to obtain a gold gem on any level.

The triangle button switches between the overhead, slightly overhead, and almost first person view points. The left and right shoulder buttons rotate the camera in either direction, buttons that you’ll surely make heavy use of through gameplay. Gems will often be hidden in a corner or otherwise sheltered out of sight, so you’ll have to switch up the cameras several times in each level just to see where to go. There are several different types of trap doors; some can only be opened if a switch is held down, while others only allow you to walk through them in one direction. At times like these, you’ll again have to rotate the camera until you can see what’s behind the door to determine if you need to flip a switch beforehand to make it out.
Still, there are instances where you’ll just have to take a chance, often leading to a mandatory level restart.

Sometimes solving a puzzle isn’t enough for victory. For instance, one scenario features a pack of running creatures, and you’ll have to time a sprint just right to run through the pack without being chomped on. Pickups also appear sporadically throughout the game; some will increase or decrease your speed immensely, others will reverse all of your movements, and a rare power-up turns you invulnerable. If you come into contact with any dangerous obstacle the level will restart, so being invulnerable to any damage can be helpful.

Overall, the game as a whole shows promise after the first few levels, but towards the latter part its appeal wears off. The different environments don’t vary too much in gameplay from one to another, so no matter what world you are in you can expect to push some crates, avoid a few rogue rats, and make your way to the portal. Pushing boxes into rivers and onto switches is only fun for a relatively short period of time, and although each level carries its own unique aesthetic, Frantix’s core gameplay remains too repetitive to keep it interesting.

Frantix’s audio-visual presentation is fairly average, consisting of generic character models and typical childish sound effects. Each environment has its own personality, seen mainly through the different color schemes used, and seasonal changes between levels add a welcoming feel. However, most of the models have unbearably rough edges, and the actual level of detail is too simple to be distinctive. To top it off, the camera doesn’t focus on the important aspects of gameplay, necessitating constant switches in camera angles.

The soundtrack is merely a few basic techno beats, serving chiefly to break the silence. The sparse sound effects include the panting of NPC characters and the grunting of the player’s hero, repetitive noises that become bothersome after a while. The game offers enough selectable heroes so you can listen to different grunting noises, but a more interesting sound design would’ve helped keep the player engaged. As an added bonus, there is a brief four minute animated movie called The Chubbchubbs which follows the comical story of one playable character. While this odd feature certainly isn’t common amongst other PSP games, it hardly makes up for the bland sound effects and mediocre visuals.

In conclusion, Frantix is a simplistic 3D puzzle-solving game that only die-hard puzzle fanatics in desperate need of a brain-buster should check out. There simply isn’t enough variety throughout the entire game to keep interest up, so it takes a lot of devotion to wade through the games nearly 200 levels. While some of the stages require a lot of thinking and can really put your mind to work, on the whole Frantix fails to deliver an enjoyable puzzle experience.