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 itís not much for presentation values, but thereís still a fondness there Ė this is something readily familiar, a lot like other products you have owned, and thatís comfortable. Itís the kind of thing youíd only put on around the house and probably wouldn’t admit to owning.
The titleís both entirely accurate and a misnomer. Thereís very little about lead character Fancy Pants Man’s adventure that is fancy. The most fanciful thing about it, in fact, is that heíll 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 thereís an expansive wardrobe that players can unlock, although this often feels like the only reason youíre still playing, and it doesnít 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, youíre 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 thatís an otherwise welcome return to the simple fun of many 90ís titles. Combat is introduced in the middle of the game. Itís based on the playerís 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. Itís 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 gameís 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 theyíre 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.
Thereís a promising future for Flash-based games on services like Xbox Live Arcade. Itís 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 Adventureís platforming segments leave a lingering feeling that itís still trying to appeal to an audience thatís OK with a quirky-yet-limited platforming game. The stakes are higher when people are asked to pay money for games, however, and thereís no number of pants Ė fancy or otherwise Ė that can make up for this titleís lack of finesse in gameplay.
Four out of ten
- Plenty of pants
- Includes the original Flash games
- Imprecise platforming
- No drop-in, drop-out multiplayer
- Combat and level layouts often get in the way