With the rise of online and increasingly demanding games, players have seen fewer and fewer offline co-op games. The idea behind Sony’s PlayLink is to address this problem a couple of different ways. By using cell phones instead of controllers, it’s much cheaper and easier for multiple people to play, with the games beings less demanding or geared (with the exception of Hidden Agenda anyway) towards simple and accessible fun. Despite this, the first couple of PlayLink games have been met with mixed reactions. Now that Frantics is out, is it the first title that does it right or is PlayLink better in theory?
The rules to Frantics are simple. Win the game by whatever means necessary. At first the idea of outfoxing players seems silly but as you play the party mechanics and various side games add a lot more depth to an otherwise simple game.
At its core Frantics is similar to Mario Party of Crash Bash, in that you play mini-games to see who is the best. Where Frantics takes a turn is, you don’t need to be the best player, as much as the smartest player, at least for most games. One of the best examples of this is the mini-game Parachuchu.
Winning is simple. The player that deploys their parachute last wins but there is far more than meets the idea. Hitting the ground is an automatic loss, so it’s sometimes better to take guaranteed points than nothing at all. Another is the game will show you when someone is deploying, so you can trick someone into doing it first or just get distracted and hit the ground. There are also bombs that can blow you up and give you an automatic loss.
If head games aren’t your thing, other games promote negative playstyles, such as Jetpack Nut Job. Here you need to move ahead without falling behind, with the person in first having the ability to slow down other players. This can be done by pushing obstacles in their path or simply preventing their progress. Having won a game by preventing other players from progressing, it’s both a thrill and quick way to make even the least competitive person wanting blood.
For those looking to play more honestly, games like Heavy Metal tend to be won by skill and teamwork, over out playing another person. In this game you simply have to score goals on other players and you earn points based off how many hearts you have left. So, if you’re good enough at playing, you can easily knock out other players and win.
Each of these mini-games have a couple of different versions, with others promoting teamwork to bring down a stronger player. To further this, defeated players have the ability to sabotage active players by freezing them in the middle of a match. This can be extremely cheap in Tour De Frantics and actually help you in some of the other games.
There are also three more mechanics designed to level the playing field. In addition to the coins you find during a match, one player will receive some additional coins for being disruptive or having a good tactic. These coins can be used to purchase advantages, with these items behind an auction mini-game. Betting high might cost you additional coins, where as low could be a loss and obviously picking different items is the way to go, unless you’re willing to bet what it takes to win. The final mechanic are secret missions, which offer a specific player a bonus if they help another player win, giving them incentive to help them out.
All of this builds to a final event, which largely comes down to skill. Every player will receive a number of hearts based off however many games they won. Since this mini-game is about defeating other players by having them walk over the edge or fall through the floor, a good tactic or finishing weapon, something you bid on prior to the fight, is enough to turn a loss into a win.
Frantics might not be perfect but it captures what makes games like Mario Party great. Anyone can win, provided they have the right tactic or are just lucky and it’s never too late to come back. It’s a shame the motion controls aren’t the best, with it making some games far more difficult than they really should’ve been but the ability for four people to play without having to buy multiple controllers more than makes up for it. So, if you want a party game anyone can play or just something that supports four players locally on the PlayStation 4, Frantics is a solid choice. However, if controls are an issue or your phone doesn’t support it, you might want to sit it out.
[Editor’s Note: Frantics was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]