Bridging the gap between a party game’s single player experience and multiplayer experience is one that has never quite been successful. With the new generation upon us, and gaming online working better than ever, could Fuzion Frenzy 2 make up the difference and create a unified experience right across the game?
A story does supposedly exist in this party game, but upon playing the game, you would never know it. Referring to the manual is the first you hear of a background as to why you are competing against other competitors on different planets. It’s pretty insignificant to the game in reality, since all you want to do is play the mini games contained within the game. You certainly won’t need to know the story to make your enjoyment of the game that much greater.
Upon start up, you will be presented with three options, being Main Battle, Online Battle and the Options. Main Battle is the offline part of the game, where the “Story” mode lies. This is probably the best place to start, especially if you want a slice of the 14 achievements available.
You will be given the chance to select your character, out of a choice of three males and three females, making a total of six characters available, and no unlockable ones. There is no difference in ability of each of the characters, it is purely aesthetic. Once you’ve chosen the character to represent you, you’ll need to select the COM players. Easy, Normal or Hard, that is the question. Unfortunately the answer isn’t a simple one; Easy and Normal are far too easy, and you will win every time. But Hard is something else, with the AI being ridiculously, super-humanly good. If you play with three Hard COM players, you may as well just put your pad down during the mini games. I’d recommend Normal for a moderate challenge for the average skilled player; no-one should play on Easy unless for achievements. You then need to select how many sets you will be playing for, from two to five. Then the build up to playing the game begins, and you will have your first encounter with perhaps the most annoying videogame character ever. Known to friends as DJ, he will be hosting the tournament aboard a spaceship. As soon as he speaks his first line, you know you’re going to get annoyed very quickly with this guy. Not only has he no dress sense, but he never shuts up and has the most annoying voice ever. Couple that with the poor lip syncing (read: absolutely no attempt to get it right at all) and you really just don’t want to see him. Thankfully any scene with him present is fully skippable, something you will make full use of the more you play the game.
Once you get past the overly long introduction, you will eventually get to choose which planet you wish to play in for the first round of the tournament. There are seven planets in total: Earth, Icicle, Blazer, Moisture, Amuseth, Eternite and Machina. Each planet has different mini games depending on the climate. For example, the planet Icicle has various different ice themed mini games, while Blazer has fire/lava themed games. There is something different on every planet. Having selected the planet, you will once again bump into DJ, but a quick press of the A button soon rids the screen of him. There is an introduction to the planet when you arrive there which provides clues as to what the planet holds. You will soon be able to play your first mini game.
But first, you will be introduced to the card system. There are two types of cards: the point multipliers, or the point modifiers. Basically, you start with a x2 card and a steal card. If you use the x2 card, the points at the end of the round will be doubled. If you use the steal card, then you steal someone’s point card if they used it, meaning you get the benefit and not them. This is where tactics begin to creep in…
But before that, you have to play a mini game. At the start of every new planet, it is customary for DJ to select the worst mini game available. Whether this is because he is programmed to do that, or just because I didn’t like each and every one he picked, is up to you to decide. Once the battle (not a mini game in the game) has been picked, you get the option to use a card, though you don’t have to, and eventually you are ready to begin the game. Yes, if you don’t skip all the DJ crap, it does take a while.
Just before the battle begins, a brief description of what you will be doing is displayed, and obviously the controls listed at the bottom. There is also the option to practice the battle before hand, which seems pretty pointless since if you win, it counts for nothing, then you will most probably lose the second time. Always dive straight in. The mini games themselves are a very mixed bunch. In this type of game, you will do well to like every mini game there is. However, in this game, you will find yourself struggling to enjoy any. There aren’t any “classics” that you have to play again and again because it was so much fun. There aren’t any that you think you could improve on, or would want to improve on. The best mini game is average in comparison to the likes of the early Mario Party games, which is surprising since Hudson Soft also developed that series, so making fresh new mini games should come naturally. Fuzion doesn’t really create anything new. There is no “wow” factor at all. Perhaps it is because all the ideas have been taken; however Wario Ware proves that originality still exists. It isn’t for a lack of trying either. Take Super Slam Dunk for example. The principle is simple: get the ball, and jump in the low-gravity room to reach the basket located high up. It sounds enjoyable with four of you battling for the ball, but you just don’t feel it. There’s no excitement, there’s no want to win, because when the AI blitz you at the game, it becomes very boring.
Perhaps what makes it worse is the DJ again. If you thought he would be contained to just the cutscene like moments, think again. Throughout the whole mini game he continually says stuff that you really couldn’t care less about. “How do you feel, player 1?”. “Was that a lot of damage player 4?”. It is unnecessary, coupled with the most annoying voice I’ve ever experienced, and the whole mini game, whichever you play, becomes a chore. Thankfully, there is an option to turn off the DJ’s announcements, but you can’t do it mid-game, so if you didn’t know, you’ll have to play the whole tournament getting more and more pissed off.
Once the battle is over, you are given points depending on your position. If you win, you get ten points, if you lose, you get two points. Second nets you six points, whilst third nets you four. But here comes the tactics. On each planet, there are three mini games, then a final Battle Royale at the end. You need the most points to obviously win that planet. In an attempt to boost your point gain, you can use various different multiplier cards, such x2, x4 or a x6. But other players can use a steal card and snatch the multiplier for themselves, or turn the x2 into a /2, meaning the poor player who uses that card just halved their points. It’s funny, but also incredibly frustrating at the same time. At least it does something different. If two people use a steal card though, then nothing happens. The same can be said for other steal type cards unfortunately. But obviously if two people use a x2 card, then they both work, otherwise that would be a major flaw. The winner of the round then gets one of three powerups, used for the Battle Royale at the end. You will get either Attack Up, Defence Up or Double HP. Pretty self explanatory, and pretty useful in the final fight. If you manage to get all three, then you have the best chance of winning, and claiming the first planet (a set).
Then the game continues in the same manner until a player wins the set amount of planets. Along the way the DJ will host some events within the cabin (the “show floor”, according to the manual), which gives you the opportunity to grab a card before the five seconds is up. Pretty helpful if you don’t hoard your cards and you need more. At the end, DJ announces the winner, and if you won the tournament you will receive the corresponding achievement, and also find out which of the six unlockable mini games you have just unlocked for your next tournament, if you can bear to play again.
The game comes to life with another player next to you. Whether it be one, two or three, it really does make all the difference. You’ll forget about the DJ, rapidly tapping A at every given opportunity to get to that once-crap battle, which has suddenly morphed into the most enjoyable experience in a long time on the 360. Go Tournament style and you are given cards again to mix it up. The Slam Dunk battle is no longer a chore, but a real fight to get the ball and get that elusive win. Only for you to discover that your mate sitting within kicking distance has used a steal card, boosting his score and winning the battle overall. This isn’t one for the kids to watch.
It becomes a whole different game, and you’ll want to keep playing for the right to pick the next battle, the one you know you’re good at. Only for your plans to be scuppered by a divider card. It’s great, and definitely something that rivals a PES night with mates.
Taking your renewed enthusiasm online, a third world for your inner self to experience is unlocked, joining Bloody Awful and Bloody Awesome. You would have thought the same amount of enjoyment could be had online as it could with offline. Not so. People rarely speak, even during a whole tournament, and really it is just like playing against the AI again. Most people are playing primarily for the achievements, so stick two COM players on Easy without waiting for four human players. Probably because you can never find more than about three at any one time. Maybe the game isn’t very popular, or maybe people are too busy playing Gears of War, but there really are not many people playing the game; a game released in America way back at the end of January. Whatever the reason, you will struggle to get a four (human) player tournament going, unless you’re prepared to wait all day.
When you do play online though, there is absolutely no lag, and in the one game that I did play with four people, there was still no sign of lag; crucial in a game like this where lag would completely ruin enjoyment you once had. So the third world of Bloody Disappointing is unlocked, and you are left with mixed feelings at the end of it.
So you hop into Mini Game Frenzy, the second mode available for both offline and online battles. This is simply a practice arena for you to perfect your skills at each and every mini game, therefore not counting towards your achievements. The final choice under both offline and online options is Custom, a mode where you get to specify exactly what mini games you play, and how many points you need to win. It’s OK, but you’ll probably only play it for the achievements.
There are fourteen very easy achievements that should cheer up the Gamerscore whores amongst us up. You could probably get them all in one day if you really wanted to, since the offline ones simply consist of finishing the tournament with the six different characters. Then you just have to win an online tournament and play all the mini games, pretty simple if you stick with it. However, the offline tournament achievements have to played with three COM players, no human players sitting idle on this game.
As it is, the game doesn’t really know what to do with itself. Play on your own and you’ll want to take it back immediately. Play online and you’ll wonder if there is anyone out there with a voice. Play with a mate or three and you’ll have a great time and wonder why more people haven’t bought the game.
The fact is, all party games are awful on their own. No amount of AI can ever change that. Over Live, things could have been different, but the game hasn’t really hit the mainstream, plus, launching a few days after Valentines Day in the UK, and rather soon after Christmas when people have either bought Lost Planet or nothing, then the game doesn’t have the best of chances. So yes, Fuzion is lying in the proverbial pile of other party games for single player experience. However, just like all good reincarnations, Fuzion rises from the pile and stands out as a great laugh amongst friends. Yes we have seen the mini games before, and most of them are pretty average, but for whatever reason, you forget all that and get lost in the card use to undercut your mates, lost in the banter going around the room and, most importantly, lost in the game. If you can get past D “Irritating” J, then you should have fun. Just don’t buy this if you are going to be playing on your own, or if you think Live will it make up for it, because it really doesn’t, not by a long way.
Final Score: 6 out of 10 - Average (How do we rate games?)