Frantix is a 3D puzzle game that seems like an ideal match for your PSP. The game has over 180 puzzles, most of which can be solved within a few minutes – perfect for quick gaming sessions on the go. Unfortunately, sloppy controls, poor camera angles, and overly repeated puzzle mechanics in reality make it a somewhat less than perfect game. Before I get into the details of why, let’s take a look at the game itself.

Pick up the gems, the door opens.
Frantix features a linear progression of puzzles that require you to make your way through what are essentially mazes. You’ll need to collect gems to unlock doors barring your way to the exit while avoiding enemies and traps. Along the way you’ll need to move blocks, trip switches, avoid water hazards, those sorts of things. Even through the game is set in a 3D world, you character’s movements are locked into a decidedly 2D world. In fact, your onscreen character can only run in the four cardinal directions and can’t even move diagonally. The game’s puzzles are effectively laid out on a grid, with things like switches, blocks, hazards, etc. each occupying a single square. This is understandable given the nature of the puzzles, but what’s not understandable is why it is so hard to control your character. Each time you try and turn your character might take an extra step or two to do so – you’ll hear the “oof” sound your character makes when hitting a wall so often you’ll have to learn to tune it out or play with the sound off. This is an annoyance when you lose seconds each time you go careening into a wall, but is unacceptable when that extra step puts you in the path of a charging enemy or drops you into a water trap. If you’re going to make a game where the puzzles are timed and there are deadly traps everywhere, you’d better give players precise control over their character.

The game’s 3D setting must have been included to give it a nice look because the puzzles are all flat and your character can not run, jump, or do anything else to get his feet off of the ground. To this effect it succeeds as the game does indeed look nice. However, that old bugaboo of 3D games, camera issues, rears its ugly head here. Walls, statues, archways, and other features can block your view of paths and gems, and if you can’t see a gem you can’t find it and it’s hard to avoid traps that you can’t see very well. You can switch camera angles on a level, but trying to manage to do this while keeping your bearings and trying to beat the clock means it’s not worth the time or effort.

The puzzles themselves can be entertaining and at times pretty challenging. You’ll usually take a “practice” run or two, figure out what needs to be done, and then do it again while trying to beat the clock. After playing for a while you’ll see a lot of the same types of tricks and challenges presented in slightly different ways, so you’ll begin to get a sense of déjà vu as you make your way through the game. You can return to any puzzle in the game that you’ve completed, but the only motivation for doing so is to beat your previous best time – and it’s no fun going for speed records when you miss half of your turns.

Frantix also includes an Academy Award winning short called The ChubbChubbs!. In fact, the game’s final levels are set in the world of the ChubbChubbs. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps the developers thought that its inclusion would intice the legions of ChubbChubb fans out there to buy the game. It’s like getting a free toaster when buying a TV. Sure it’s nice to get something extra for free, but the connection will leave you scratching your head.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 66%.  Frantix will make you more frantic about the controls than the gameplay.

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