The Fancy Pants Adventures
The Fancy Pants Adventures is a lot like sweatpants; a bit flimsy and aimless, not willing to fully grasp the concept of being pants, but still giving it a shot. The fabric holding the game together originated in a Flash-based title of the same name. There are holes in undesirable places and it’s not much for presentation values, but there’s still a fondness there – this is something readily familiar, a lot like other products you have owned, and that’s comfortable. It’s the kind of thing you’d only put on around the house and probably wouldn’t admit to owning.
The title’s both entirely accurate and a misnomer. There’s very little about lead character Fancy Pants Man’s adventure that is fancy. The most fanciful thing about it, in fact, is that he’ll encounter a wide variety of cosmetic unlockables, such as new hairdos, melee weapons, and fittingly, pairs of pants. The game establishes some decent replay value, as there’s an expansive wardrobe that players can unlock, although this often feels like the only reason you’re still playing, and it doesn’t make up for the lack of depth in more important areas.
As a momentum-based platforming game, The Fancy Pants Adventures feels overly loose. At its best, you’re speeding through loops, bouncing off walls, deftly maneuvering over platforms, and rolling through enemies, collecting squiggles as you go. Occasionally the level design blurs this easygoing vision of freedom and speed that’s an otherwise welcome return to the simple fun of many 90’s titles. Combat is introduced in the middle of the game. It’s based on the player’s sword-like weapon, often requiring them to stop and poke at an enemy or charge their attack several times before killing a pirate, miniature ninja, or any of the other generic enemy archetypes.
The problem is that the combat increases in difficulty, slowing the pace to a crawl. It’s one of the key reasons the original Sonic the Hedgehog games worked so well and many imitations have failed: adding any depth to combat (beyond spinning) or introducing elements that work against the momentum is counter-intuitive. Everything should be based around momentum or pure speed, from the platforming to the puzzle design. Having the player take half a minute to disband some pirate or creating obstacles that require them to stop and think clouds any appeal the momentum-based premise could have had, and The Fancy Pants Adventure has both in droves.
One redeeming factor is the game’s online play. Up to four players can platform co-operatively or alternatively, compete in a selection of tournaments, ranging from races to King of the Hill. It can be fun, having a game with four players who are co-operating, although when they’re not it can be a major hassle, as the screen jerks around, zooming in and out, and re-locating players who have fallen behind. The lack of drop-in, drop-out co-op is a big drawback here, although once you get a reliable team together, it can be fun. The best part comes at the end of each level when players take the podium, ranked for the number of squiggles collected, and are given four doors of costumes to choose from. The person with the most squiggles is placed closest to the doors and has the best chance of getting their desired items, while the other players often have to scramble or knock one another away to get theirs.
There’s a promising future for Flash-based games on services like Xbox Live Arcade. It’s a market where, with some effort, developers can take modest Flash platforming games and spin them into console gold, as seen with the conversion from Meat Boy to Super Meat Boy. Unlike that aforementioned success story, however, the imprecision of The Fancy Pants Adventure’s platforming segments leave a lingering feeling that it’s still trying to appeal to an audience that’s OK with a quirky-yet-limited platforming game. The stakes are higher when people are asked to pay money for games, however, and there’s no number of pants – fancy or otherwise – that can make up for this title’s lack of finesse in gameplay.