Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: November 29, 2001
If there’s one thing the gaming world desires above all others, it’s acceptance. The reasons for this are twofold: First, the current crop of gamers most likely reached maturity in a hostile environment where it was widely-held that spending time with your computer changed you into that most horrible of states — “the nerd.” Second, if you achieve acceptance, all stigma that once applied to gamers is lifted and a mysterious reversal will take place, resulting in the gamer becoming, “cool.” Nintendo knew this when they launched their very popular string of ads for Mario Party 2, which featured a house hosting said title, surrounded by kids and protected by a strict bouncer. Like Nintendo, every system has recognized that they need a “party game,” and responding to this need we have Crash Bash, Sonic Shuffle along with Mario’s successful franchise. Obviously the folks at Microsoft decided that they weren’t missing out on this trend, and as a result of their efforts we have Fuzion Frenzy. What remains to be seen is whether this offering, so brimming with the potential to make its owner host to countless get togethers, will be the life of the party, or just another wallflower.
Defining the party game presents itself as one of the easiest tasks facing the reviewer today, largely due to the uniformity of the genre. Consistently, we see two simple constructs at work — the foremost of which is the framework — which is usually a tournament, board game or points based recording system that determines the eventual winner. Players acquire these points through the most consistent portion of these releases, which are collectively called mini-games. The interesting thing about Fuzion Frenzy‘s construction stands out in the emphasis placed on the latter of these two components. Where Mario and friends routinely explore vast maps in a board game style competition, the X-Box’s equivalent records your points, nods curtly like an Olympic judge and whisks you onto the next event.
These events, of course, are the main attraction in Fuzion Frenzy and there are 45 of them for your multiplayer enjoyment. Those familiar with this type of game will immediately recognize the content here and be able to sub-divide them into classes. Racing games, for instance, place your character inside a vehicle of some sort and race you through a variety of tracks. One variation of these places you within rolling spheres akin to the titular conveyances of Marble Madness, with other races taking place on water or go carts. As might be expected, multiple tracks make themselves available to each type of race, and learning to compensate for the corners and differing frictions can be tricky.
Another class of event concerns itself with collection of specific items. In most cases, you’ll be required to retrieve certain items and return them to a specific point, as in the case of Pyromaniacs. An experiment in firework design, you must collect three powder kegs to launch a display, and three kegs of the same color will earn you the most points. Of course, as will all collection events, the other players can belt you a swift one and steal your kegs if they don’t feel like running all the way to the back to pick up their next load. It may not be nice, but you can always reciprocate with some punishment of your own when the opportunity arises.