Review: A classic example of a sequel gone wrong.
The original Fuzion Frenzy, which was released as a launch title for the original Xbox in 2001, was one of the most underrated titles of the last generation. For those that wanted to try something different, for those that wanted to venture beyond the dozens of FPS and racing games that were pumped out for the system, Fuzion Frenzy provided one of the answers. It was Microsoft's answer to Nintendo's successful Mario Party series, and filled a void in the party game genre that was sorely needed. A copy of the game, four controllers and three friends was a formula for hours of endless fun. Now, six years later, a sequel has been born.
Fuzion Frenzy 2 once again fills a void as the only party game, only this time on Microsoft's new Xbox 360 console. It should also be noted that the developer of the original, Blitz Games, has been replaced by Hudson Soft, developer of the Mario Party series. The storyline states that four years ago, the wildly popular TV show Fuzion Frenzy was banned from Earth. However, due to global overpopulation, global leaders are attempting to encourage intergalactic travel by bringing back the TV hit, which now takes place on a series of planets. The original six characters are back, including Geena, Dub, Jet, Naomi, Samson and Zak.
Once you pop the game in, you will notice that you have the ability to play all of the modes either offline or online, as many claimed the lack of online play was the sole weakness of the original. You can select from three game types: Tournament, Mini-Game Frenzy and Custom. Tournament mode is the game's main component, and also has the most problems due to the implementation of several new features.
In the Tournament mode of Fuzion Frenzy 2, you begin by picking one of six characters. The objective of the game is to dominate a certain number of planets, which you must choose at the beginning. You have the option of choosing between 2 and 5 planets, and the more you choose, the longer you will be forced to play. If you select two planets, for example, one player could win two in a row in a matter of 10 minutes, or each player might end up winning one planet before a victor is determined on the fifth try. With four or five planets, the game could go on for beyond an hour. Fuzion Frenzy 2 features 7 different planets with various themes, for example, the planet Blazer has fire-themed mini-games.
Dominating a planet consists of accruing the most points at the end of four mini-games. For each mini-game, first place earns 10 points, second place earns 6 points and so on. However, things aren't that simple in Fuzion Frenzy 2 due to the introduction of a card system. Throughout the duration of the Tournament mode, players will somewhat randomly receive cards that they can choose to play or save before a mini-game begins. These include multipliers, which comes in the 2X, 4X and 6X variety. This means that if the second place player played a 4X card, instead of receiving 8 points for the game, he will receive 32 points.
This makes huge swings in points possible, and no one is ever out of the game. If a player has been in dead last throughout the first three games on a planet, and then stumbles on a 6X card and wins only the last game, he will win that planet. Others card can steal effects (stealing an opponents' multiplier is always fun), divide multipliers (instead of having an opponent get 20 points for a first place finish and a 2X multiplier, they get only 5), and cards that allow you to select the next mini-game or planet. This card system was very upsetting at first, as it rewards unskilled players. However, it really does allow anyone to pick up a controller and become competitive right away.
The Tournament mode is presented with the assistance of the host, who might go down as one of the most hated characters in video game history. From the hot pink pants to the yellow jacket to the spiky green hair, there is nothing to like about Hudson Soft's ?cool? DJ of the future. His lines aren't synched with his mouth movements, he yells the same tireless one-liners throughout the mini-games ? the guy is a pain to see and hear. I am very grateful for the Mini-Game Frenzy and Custom modes, which thankfully do not feature a host.
Nevertheless, when reviewing a party game, the most crucial aspect is always the mini-games themselves. Fuzion Frenzy 2 features over 40 mini-games, some of which have carried over from the original. I was extremely happy to learn that my favorites like Sumo and Tail Blazer make a successful return, however the Rhythm style games are gone. Additionally, six of the mini-games must be unlocked by winning Tournaments. This time around, I feel like 40% of the games are fun, 40% are knock-offs of other games and 20% are terrible. For example, I love Pinball Battle, where you must avoid the giant pin balls bouncing around the enclosed stage. However, there are far too many games where you must kick and punch the other players until their health falls to zero. Some games were simply frustrating to control, mainly Super Slam Dunk and Underwater Rumble. One of the problems stems from the fact that the in-game camera zooms in and out to fit all players on the screen; so when players are far apart, it zooms away so much that it becomes difficult to judge depth.
If you get sick of Tournament mode (or the announcer), you can head on over to the other modes of play. Mini-Game Frenzy allows you to select a particular mini-game and play it, while Custom mode allows you to create a sequence of games and point scoring mechanisms without the use of cards or the dreadful announcer. If you don't have four controllers or three friends, the game will automatically use computer players to insure four-player madness. The AI is solid on most occasions and the bots present a challenge if you are playing on any difficulty other than easy. There were a few instances where I was able to dominate in a coin-collecting game while the computers were beating each other up, but that happens rarely.
To ensure the most fun, however, human players are a must. Even though I am fonder of the original, getting a bunch of friends to play Fuzion Frenzy 2 is always a ton of fun. This is not always possible, however, which is why the Xbox Live compatibility is a welcome addition. All three modes of play are available, and the game is virtually lag-free. But there are a few problems. First of all, you can't skip over the annoying host dialogue in between mini-games online. And second of all, there aren't many people playing this game online at most times, which is a shame.
Graphically, Fuzion Frenzy 2 fails to showcase the power of the Xbox 360 console. The original Xbox could have handled such graphics with ease, which is a shame on one hand. However, party games have never been about jaw-dropping graphics; engaging and simple gameplay is the key to success. Nevertheless, the character models have been substantially changed, taking on a futuristic Japanese anime look. The framerate remains smooth both online and offline. There are a few nice particle and water effects here and there, but nothing to write home about.
The audio is the weakest part of this game. The upbeat hip-hop beats from the original have been replaced by futuristic techno tunes, which are just begging to be replaced by tracks off your own hard drive. The sound effects seem to be recycled from the original, and include your standard punches, kicks, smashes and crashes. As for character audio, the annoying one-liners that a character utters upon victory are no longer as prominent. It is actually difficult to hear what they yell, but that doesn't matter as whatever they are saying, it is certainly of little importance. But the absolute worst part is the announcer, who yells the same 5 lines over and over and over until you feel like muting the audio. It is not uncommon to hear: ?Was that a lot of damage Player 1?? yelled over and over again by a cheesy ?80s announcer. I also fail to understand why the character names are no longer announced; instead all you hear is the player's number.