Sony's sole first-party launch title for their new system is also its first puzzle game, and one that was met with more than a few skeptical looks when announced. A game about fireworks wasn't what most expected from the "Emotion Engine," and while Fantavision features impressive visuals supported by some offbeat gameplay, its thrills are ultimately as fleeting as the light show it simulates.

  City level
Interrupted by fireworks

    At first glance, Fantavision seems to have more in common with Missile Command than a traditional puzzle game, but the tried and true "match and remove" genre gameplay is firmly in place. Players take control of a target to capture fireworks as the game launches wave after wave into the night sky. Grab three or more of the same color and detonate them for combo points; missed fireworks eventually sputter out and are deducted from your energy meter. Once the meter empties, the game's over. Of course, there's a catch. Only one color of fireworks can be linked together at a time. Along with the three basic colors, a "wild" color will occasionally be launched. This can be used to jump between colors, potentially racking up screen-filling explosions.

    Fantavision builds upon this simple premise for some potentially complex gameplay. There are four shapes of fireworks beyond the basic flare, each of which throws its sparks in a slightly different pattern. When an incoming flare hits a spark of the same color, it will ignite a chain reaction for even greater points. Savvy gamers can chain together dozens of fireworks, even into the triple digits, and larger combos will cause power-ups to appear. Similar to the wild flares, these can be used to link different colors, as well as producing bigger explosions, bonus multipliers, or a small refill for your energy meter. Grab eight star power-ups and you'll be rewarded with a Starmine. Once detonated, the Starmine takes you to a bonus level where huge volleys of flares are thrown out in succession.

To infinity and beyond!
From the Earth to the Moon

    The basic concepts of the game certainly have all the makings of a classic puzzler. But for all the careful set up, Fantavision requires little real skill. The early levels show a lot of promise, but later they degenerate into a race to ignite as much as you can, as fast as you can. Most gamers will blow through the game's paltry eight levels in a matter of an hour. It's certainly fun while it lasts, but the few additional modes that open up don't offer much incentive for replay beyond pushing for an ever-larger combo.

    Luckily a much needed two player mode has been added for the American release. Like the solo game, two player Fantavision is chaotic and short lived fun. Here, the sky is divided between the players at the start of a match. Linking together combos expands your portion of the screen, giving your competitor less room to maneuver. New power-ups can be used to expand your territory or even swap it with the other player. While the mode certainly adds to the game's life span, it still lacks the underlying strategy and addictiveness to keep players coming back for more.

Two-player duel

    What Fantavision does have going for it are some incredible visuals. In addition to the game's swarming, colorful particle effects each stage takes place against a minutely detailed backdrop. From a cityscape complete with tiny moving cars and an amusement park, the game progresses to Earth orbit, the moon, and parts unknown. Since the small touches are easy to miss while the screen is filled with pyrotechnics, Fantavision offers an even more impressive replay mode which allows you to control everything from the weather to the camera focus. The graphics overall are small in scope, but they contain some of the most impressive effects you're likely to find in a first generation title.

    In fact, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that Fantavision's graphics easily eclipse its gameplay. Though there are some interesting ideas here; they haven't been developed or balanced well enough to keep you in that cycle of addiction puzzle gamers know so well. You'll likely find yourself pulling Fantavision back off the shelf to show off its next-generation prowess more often than you do to actually play it. Despite an original premise, the balance between depth and fun is one puzzle Fantavision leaves unsolved.

Review by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Developer SCE
Publisher SCEA
Genre Puzzle
Medium CD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  03.09.00
Playstation Festival 2000 impressions
6 gameplay screens / 4 replay screens / 5 two-player screens / 3 movies
U.S. and Japanese packaging