Brad Gallaway ended his review of Fantavision by saying that he feels like he was ripped off by the game, despite the fact that he got it for free. So you can imagine how I felt after paying five dollars for it. Sure, those are Canadian dollars, but still.
It's easy to write about a game that you hate. Complaining is the easiest thing in the world. How, though, do you spin utter and complete boredom? What interested me most about Brad's review was just how succinctly he managed to capture just what it was about the game that made it so awful: the absolute tedium of it. The game is so dull that you can't even describe it in an interesting fashion. Go back and read Brad's paragraph about the game's play mechanics. Not especially gripping, is it? The amazing thing is that playing the game is far, far less entertaining than reading about it.
Brad described the game's tutorial as slow, but he was, if anything, being too kind to it. The tutorial is the most plodding example of its kind that I've ever had the displeasure of taking part in. It's completely non-interactive. The game crosses from just being boring, to actual hostility towards the gamer by presenting everything at what can only described as a torturously slow pace. Not only does the dull-voiced narrator speak in an incredibly slow monotone, but the game will pause for five to ten seconds between each statement, as if the rules were so complex that the player needed to be given the time to properly digest the information they were being given. The only effect is to create a seething rage in the player's mind that quickly replaces any awareness of the myriad rules.
Another terrible failure of the game is the decision on the part of the designers to have the supremely boring narrator from the tutorial narrating the game itself. You see, in order to play the game, you have to explode flares, at least three at a time. Naturally, to score higher points, you're expected to form longer and longer chains of fireworks. Every time you finish a chain, the announcer pipes up and tells you exactly how many flares you've exploded. Now, even if the announcer had the most interesting voice in the entire world, this would still get tedious very, very fast. Try to imagine playing Tetris, and every time you complete a line, a tinny voice exclaims 'One level destroyed!' Now, considering that in your average game of Tetris you'll destroy a few hundred lines, you can see how annoying that would become. Of course, if you don't want to strain your imagination, you can always just play Fantavision for five minutes, and you'll understand just how hostile a puzzle game can be to its players.
In fact, the game's biggest flaw, which Brad touched on tangentially, is that it actually punishes the gamer for playing it. The entire game seems to have been constructed without anyone giving the least bit of consideration to the people who were going to have to play it. This is no more obvious than the game's biggest problem—which exists at the conceptual level. Whenever the fireworks go off they create admittedly spectacular explosions. Since these explosions only come in five or six different varieties, they get repetitive awfully quickly. What's worse, though, is the fact that the explosions tend to fill the screen, obscuring the next set of flares. It's a sad day for game design when your only noteworthy feature actually serves to make the game less playable.
The game's only redeeming feature, the one tiny silver lining, is a relatively well-implemented replay feature, which allows you to watch the events of a completed level as a single, uninterrupted fireworks show. There are a large number of filter and camera features, allowing you to see what your achievements would look like if they were trailed by psychedelic afterimages, or going on in the middle of a rainstorm, viewed through a red filter. This special effect proves unintentionally hilarious—I don't know very much about fireworks, and do not consider myself any kind of a combustion 'expert'. The one thing I do know? They don't work in the rain.
Fantavision is a singularly awful game, one that commits the worst sin a game possibly can. It's not fun. From beginning to end—okay, I didn't actually get to the end, so that's just theoretical—Fantavision feels like work, and is that what anyone is looking for when they sit down in front of their PlayStation 2?