Are you cunning like a fox and sly enough to steal the crown in this series of mini-game challenges by Napnok Games for PlayLink on PlayStation 4? Frantics joins the catalogue of PlayLink party games, where up to four players ditch their controllers and use smartphones or tablets to tilt, shake, or flick their way to victory.
As with all PlayLink titles the Frantics app needs to be downloaded for free from the Google Play Store or AppStore, and all smart devices will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the PS4 you're playing; don't worry if you have no Wi-Fi though, as you can soon turn your PS4 into a hotspot in the game settings.
There are 15 mini-games available and each match comprises of four rounds of randomly chosen games. Players must compete to earn crowns, which are then converted into lives for the final showdown. Along the way you can also earn coins and Fox will auction off ways to sabotage your friends, from weapons to attack with, items to give you a boost, or even a hat to double up your points. Fox can even give someone a call with a secret mission which will be sent to you like a text message - complete this secret mission and you can earn extra crowns to help you in the finale.
Each mini-game is quite short, usually only a few minutes, and that's if the players survive long enough, meaning each game last around 20 to 30 minutes. While the format is great fun, we did find that we wanted a greater number of rounds in each match, and after searching through Frantics' different modes we noticed that while you can customise your experience, you can only make the games shorter than they are in the normal mode.
This added to the fact that certain games such as Hot-Rod Heroes and Thrust Issues spend so much time sorting out which mods are attributed to certain players - some helping, some hindering - the actual races themselves ends up feeling ever so short and that impacts on some of the hilarity of the competition itself. It's frustrating how you can spend a few minutes trying successfully sabotage another player's car when the race is over in less than 10 seconds. Also, adding to the overall time of a game is the practice before each challenge; every time you play a mini-game you're given a brief introduction to the controls, which while helpful at first can become quite tiresome (luckily this can be turned off in the settings).
There are, as mentioned, fifteen mini-games included, and our favourites include Tour De Frantics, a racing game where you have to peddle trikes round a track. That sounds simple enough but you can't peddle and turn at the same time, and so it takes a while to master but becomes quite competitive the more skilled you become. Dough, on the other hand, has knights task you with spearing as many doughnuts as you can with a jousting lance, while stealing those belonging to your friends (just be careful and make sure you're not the one holding the explosive one when it goes off). There there's Chair Riot, a hilarious turn-based game of curling with office chairs. Use your smart device to aim and power your shot towards the target zone, while everyone lays traps that can send you careering off track. We found this one of the best of the bunch and more than once we played single games of it just for fun.
Playing with friends and family is obviously the way it's meant to be played, and Frantics offers no online mode so you'll all need to be together on the same couch to enjoy it. If you haven't got anyone to play with at home, Fox will happily add a couple of AI-controlled animal players into the mix and give you some competition.
There is a large selection of animal characters to play as and all are given a handmade claymation look, while in the character selection phase at the beginning of the game you can adjust random features such as small heads, large noses, and even accessories which are earned by winning the game's final battle round. These accessories are available to anyone, not just the winning player, which is an added bonus.
The final round sees you tally up the crowns earned by all players and converted into lives that will help you survive the battle. At this point in time, Fox will auction the items, and these correspond to the mini-games you've played in order to get to the final, it could be a baseball bat, a bomb, a jetpack, or even an office chair. Obviously some are better than others, so make sure you've earnt plenty of coins to secure your bid.
Once everyone's armed, Fox will send you out onto an icy pond and fire you up in the air. From here the aim is to muscle your opponents off the platform through either skill or just plain luck, making them lose lives in the process. To make things more challenging the ice will crack beneath you so don't stand in one place too long and watch out for those holes. The last animal standing wins, naturally, then it's a case of sitting back and enjoying Fox's witty remarks as you claim your prize.
The voices for Fox and the practice narrator are excellent, we would like to add. Fox's nonchalant attitude to the game is novel, added to the fact he's willing to help you sabotage battles and lets you pay to win games only works to make the rivalry between players even greater. That said, while Frantics is a fun social game with some hilarious moments, it's the slow sections between matches and some short battles that make playing the game slightly frustrating at times. Still, it's fun if you've got friends coming over, and that's kinda the point.