"Bored on the Fourth of July?"

With the simple fun of colorfully illuminating a patch of darkened sky with friends and family on a nice Summer day now out of many of our hands, fireworks on, say, America's birthday nowadays usually requires having to pay to sit with a pack of sweaty "patriots" to see what the "artist" of fireworks has lined up to "oooh" and "ahhh" with. The presentation, of course, set to the tunes of our nation heard numerous times before. Pay, park outside the fireworks venue and get yelled at for watching for free, or just forget all that and turn on the tube--whatever you choose, it still ain't the same as setting off fireworks yourself.

Now, I'm not saying Fantavision gives the same feeling of those bygone pyro loving lighting days so fondly remembered, but it is entertaining enough to capture your attention with setting off some dazzling multicolored explosions. Definitely much more fun than lighting and passing the sparklers to aunt Matilda to give to grandma.

Presented as a puzzle game, Fantavision's goal is to detonate as many fireworks as you can before the allowed time expires. By using the left analog stick, a long beam extends from a circular cursor and is used to aim and lock onto flares of the same color that shoot from the bottom of the screen. By pressing the X button, you can shoot the cursor at the flares allowing them to be "captured" and their number to be increased. After capturing three flares of the same color, you then detonate them via the circle button for a simple chain to add to your overall time allowing for the game to last longer. You must--must--capture the same color to make the detonation count, though, and you must detonate the many flares that come up before they rise too high and disappear, for if too many do, your timer will expire and it will be game over.

The flares come in red, blue, orange, and green, but there are flares that shimmer different colors called wild flares, making them them the "missing link," if you will, that is crucial to connecting different colors creating daisy chains. Capture three blue flares, then a shimmering one, then three green ones and detonate, or capture another shimmering one, and you can go back to collecting blue flares, or other colored ones. Mixing and matching of colors and types of flares is the random fun here. Soon you could amass a huge hold of flares detonating them in a daisy chain of awesome color. While greed can be good here, this can lead to a bit of tension, as you have to decide if you keep your hold and risk losing it all as the flares continue rising, or wait for more flares to rise and reap even greater rewards.

You can also create a chain reaction by having explosions "set off" rising flares of the same color. If the flare rising touches an explosion of the same color, or differing color while holding a wild flare, you'll get more bang. Other types of flares help out in this area as well, showering explosives down instead of in a circular manner. Willow flares, for instance, are similar to the behavior of Willow trees showering, here, explosion residue in a longer downward manner. Other special flares are can also helpful, such as the multi-flare allowing a flare to be detonated twice. Once a multi-flare is detonated, it separates into many tiny flares that can be detonated again so the explosion can reach farther and be more grand. Timing is definitely a key to the game and in getting more chains.

There are also various power-ups that come from the chains that can give you more time, or be another type of wild flare, connecting different types of flares for detonation. The really special power-ups are called Stars and are such when they are freed from an explosion. Capture seven of these along with flares to spell out "S-T-A-R-M-I-N-E" and a giant shining star that also has to be captured will be released. The more flares you capture with the star, the longer your time will be in the special spastic area of STARMINE where, usually, many same colored flares (and their types) come shooting from below in an incredible manner. Easily linking these and detonating these flares makes for some easy chains and racks up your overall score.

Learning all of the tricks comes easy, but if you still need some help there is an informative tutorial. All of the tricks can come in handy, especially if you choose to play someone in the fun multiplayer. While only 2-player, the split screen factor becomes moot when you use power-ups to knock the divider farther to your opponent's side of the screen allowing you to steal their flares and turn the reward into some explosive bounty for your benefit.

Another cool aspect of the game is in its replay mode. You can choose from eight different types of camera angles, and you can select various weather affects to enhance viewing your saved sky lighting. There are also some cool visual effects that can make the backgrounds darker, or you can add a trippy psychedelic spin to your performance. It was really cool to add snow or rain, then constantly spin around, upside down, and through the fireworks being set off. Not to mention when the replay hits a STARMINE portion causing the increased succession of fireworks to be even more dazzling to witness.

While we've seen how far the PlayStation 2 can go graphically with games like Okami, the Metal Gear series, even the recently released beautiful 2-D offering of Odin's Sphere (among others), and while Fantavision's visuals could never compete within those veins, the overall presentation is still great to see. Fantavision still holds its own given the time that has passed since this game's original release in 2000, offering superb multicolored blasts that are the payoff for the gladly addictive premise. You definitely won't be disappointed with the gorgeous treatment of your explosion letting, nor that of what it showers over.

While the foreground is really the place to keep your focus, backgrounds themselves can have some life in them. Since the perspective is in the sky, a plane and some traffic can give some life to a Miami-like city you hover over. You'll get some nice and unique, but somewhat simple, background sites as you progress (out of this world, baby), and the flares can come from another direction keeping the game from getting stale so very easily. However, this is essentially a puzzle game, and that in-turn can assure at least of bit of unwanted repetition--and unfortunately not only in the gameplay.

The music for the game can not always fit the given level. I wouldn't call it out of place, but there is is some oddness to it: too much organ I would say. A much more noticeable tone than the catchy title screen, that has some techno, and the serene musical track that plays while viewing your replay. The repetitive announcer and tutorial voice over given is definitely the downside to the audio, however, sounding very tired and a bit out of place calling out chains and specials.

There is another very blatant and odd piece to the game that I did not expect to see. You see, well, there is this very white bread (make that sourdough), family that looks like they stepped out of the 50s shown in the game. They are the very first thing you see when you start. Cement hairdos and all, they show up and are extremely out of place. None more so than the spaced out little beast that resembles a freckled Pipi Longstocking who laughs and laughs. What the hell she's laughing at I'll never know, nor attempt to guess, but the lot of them are creepy...in a neo conservative sort of way. Madness on Sony's part to allow them in the game, but thankfully not damning to the overall game.

Forever branded as a tech demo alongside the PlayStation 2 in 2000, Fantavision deserves a bit more respect as a frantic and fun puzzle game. If your tired of rearranging blocks in differing degrees, then this puzzler's offerings are for you. Insanely cheap, there's no reason to not pick it up and add it to your puzzle collection of addictiveness. Pity a PSP version hasn't been released, for it could be a great relief this time of year during some boring patches of the standard family/friends barbecue and, with others via multiplayer, allow for a little bit of nostalgia to be put back in your hands.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/03/07


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