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The Fancy Pants Adventures (PlayStation 3) artwork

The Fancy Pants Adventures (PlayStation 3) review


"Run Fast! Run Fancy!"



Run Fast, Run Fancy


In the corner of the pages of some of my notebooks, there's a stick-character. And if you flip through the pages, the figure does pointless things with scrawly fists, demonstrates against the boredom of Ibsen and Hamsun analyses, and violently wallruns against the edges of the pages.

This is probably how Brad Borne's Fancy Pants Man started out as well. Before making it to a flash-animation. And then eventually a full-featured platform-game: FPA World 1, and FPA World 2.

But the approach to the animation in the game is what makes Fancy Pants Adventures so unique and worth a look. Instead of focusing on complex and detailed drawing (..outside the fancy pants), the game is about kinetic and dynamic animation. The running animation follows uneven ground and angled platforms, or skips into the air on a ramp depending on your running speed. And then swoops down on the ground again with satisfyingly bent stick-knees softening to the impact. The character animation will lean forward and gain momentum when running down a hill. And launch into the air (into a backflip, if you pull backwards at the edge) when running up a ramp.

Lose momentum while running up a wall, and you will have to scrawl for the edge on top, or maybe leap at the opposite wall with a well-timed wallrun instead.

Put together with the fantastic hand-drawn levels, Fancy Pants Adventures essentially is a stick-character running across a notebook, with the kind of kinetic animation control that has enough subtle touches to make it appear hand-drawn, frame by frame, even though it is generated in real time.

TommyLM's thematic soundtrack further enhance the game until the emotion when you play settles softly in the hind-brain forever.

It's a neat tribute to the classic platformer games, with a decidedly modern control and animation approach, and a style that makes it memorable. Whether it was this, or the fifty million plays on Armorgames and Newgrounds that inspired EA to sponsor a console port of the flash hit shall remain a mystery. But now you can play the smash hit also on consoles. The question is why.

Console version highlights


The console version comes with a new single player story, or “World 3”. With new enemies and challenges of the same terrible urgency as World 2's liberation of a captured ice-cream cone: “For freedom, for Justice, and for World 2 to have a plot-line!”. And after you finish the campaign, the doors in the attic to FPA worlds 1 & 2 from the flash-version open up as well.

A definitive advantage is that the new release is stable at 60 frames per second, which makes the game flow and play much easier than the flash-version on most computers. And playing the game with the d-pad rather than a keyboard is very comfortable.

But the main feature is that the console version gains an online and offline multiplayer mode. You can start a story-mode with up to four players offline. And if you don't have that many controllers, you can add 1-4 players in any mix of offline and online. There's no drop-in, though, so you have to plan a bit outside the game. Still, running through the campaign, and kicking your friends to new heights is probably worth the hassle. That you can play together with friends without any pressure - the competition is about who can run the most fancy - is worth mentioning as well. In a sense this might be more or less unique when it comes to co-op platforming games. Where the design doesn't assume that you're playing the game with other platform-gamer savants. Which makes the game a good candidate for playing in the living-room with others. Or even strangers on the net.

The game is also somewhat tolerant of lag (such as 350ms for reasonably close players, say, same continent), even if the player interference with objects and other players makes it uncomfortable to play if the network latency is too high.

But the multiplayer component itself is very slick. With flexible camera-zoom on the 2d plane that changes smoothly enough as players split up, to not cause you to miss precision jumps, or upset your aim in mid-flght.

This changes when the lag increases (and the host lags out). So it's unfortunate that there's no matching lobby or game-list to deal with this gracefully. You could imagine a way to add players towards the end of a level, for example, and let random players drop in based on their connection quality. Instead any online players will have to rely on inviting players into their games.

The wardrobe in the console-version has been expanded from the solid coloured Pants in the flash-version, and to a huge amount of textured pants, as well as extra wigs and hats. The “pencil” (a fearsome weapon and central plot-driver in the campaign - that needs to be used exactly twice) can also be switched out as you complete challenges and levels (while still in the level, if you want to).

So after a while you can personalise your avatar with your own Fancy Pants and fighting implement. An oversized feather that goes with a pink gown and a high wig, for example. Or a skateboard helmet and baggy Pants that go with a hickory bat.

There's also a challenge-mode for the speed-run levels, and a few versus modes in the arcade placed in the House where you start the game. But this will be driven by invite only, like the campaign mode. Outside of that, there's an online leader-board for maximum squiggle and scrawl-scores, and race-level record times.

Is there anything negative to say about the console version outside the somewhat basic online social interface? Not really. Brad Borne's Fancy Pants Adventures survives the sponsorship of a major publisher with grace and honor mostly intact. And became in the end a very solid package that is well worth your money - whether you have played the original World 1&2, or simply if you are a fan of extremely slick platforming games.

The Fancy Pants Adventures will last you approximately four hours if you run through it. But the challenges and hidden rooms, unlockable costumes, as well as the multiplayer component, extends the game for a while afterwards. Sadly, there's no word on a TommyLM soundtrack release yet.

(Also, feel free to read my semi-technical walkthrough of the game elsewhere on the site).

Rating: 8/10

fleinn's avatar
Community review by fleinn (August 06, 2011)

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mrmiyamoto posted August 10, 2011:

Solid review here Fleinn, although it is a bit choppy. I'm always open to solid platforming and just might give this one a shot. Is this also on XBLA?
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fleinn posted August 11, 2011:

Yeah - xbl, psn.

World 3 is apparently going to turn up as well. As a flash-version. Not sure how they're going to pull that one over the lawyers at EA, but.. You can check out the beta on brad borne's site http://www.bornegames.com/ ..more refined physics version, that kind of thing.

..it is a bit choppy, isn't it. Way too many changes between passive and active or something.. sort of sounds like the end of the review several times :D lol thanks.
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 11, 2011:

Good review, and it made me interested in a game that I had no interest in before, but I do have a stylistic criticism.

You often end a sentence. Then start a new one. When it would flow much better to merge them into one. This might be contributing. To the choppiness.
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fleinn posted August 11, 2011:

hehe, yeah.. there's... I have a habit of writing long sentences with fifteen sub-sentences and parentheses before ending with a semi-colon, and so on. So I'm trying to avoid that. And hopefully sometimes creating a natural pause instead of mentally deflating people's lungs somewhere along the way.

But it didn't work that well in the middle there lol. Maybe I need to try piecing together the paragraphs a bit differently.. I mean, if I just put more punctuation and spaces into a set of sentences that still deflate your lungs.. then..

..anyone want to help me with a few other things they see, before I do a small rewrite..? :)
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threetimes posted August 11, 2011:

Just a couple of things I noticed. The first paragrap needs some sssssses. :)

the figure does pointless things with scrawly fists, demonstrate/s against the boredom of Ibsen and Hamsun analyses, and violently wallrun/s against the edge of the pages.

And I agree about that choppiness. Check the paragraph starting: That you can play together with friends
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fleinn posted August 11, 2011:

..that's why it sounded so strange >_< lol.. maybe I was thinking about figures on each page that really are (is..?) just one character. and then mixed it up again later.

Thank you for feedback. Very useful. (Btw...any suggestions on how to get rid of that "There's also a challenge mode.." at the end..? :/ Think I should just delete it?)
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 15, 2011:

I think the 'There's a challenge mode' section is fine. Just so you know.
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fleinn posted August 16, 2011:

Yeah.. I just thought it didn't add anything useful. It's like it reads: "The reviewer had something else he had to mention, but which you'll figure out on your own anyway, and has absolutely no bearing on the impression of the game".. you know..

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