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by Microsoft

bumpercars-v1.jpg (3420 bytes)One of the newer genres to grow up lately has been the party game. Of course, party games have existed for ages – any game that is relatively easy to pick up and has an amiable multiplayer, such as Powerstone or Mario Kart, can be suitable for parties. Among certain groups even complex games, such as Perfect Dark, Unreal Tournament, and Tekken, have served well. But beginning with Mario Party and continuing through games like Sonic Shuffle, the party game has taken a life of its own. It’s not surprising, then, that Microsoft chose to include a party game in its launch lineup. Fuzion Frenzy is a very good party game, and is interesting for a lot of reasons.

bumpercars-v4.jpg (3136 bytes)The adult focus of this game is undeniable. Much has been made of the Xbox being geared towards adults, and more than any other game out there, I feel like Fuzion Frenzy is the most representative of the Xbox’s target audience. The game itself is pretty basic. You choose a tournament of either two, four, or six rounds and up to four players choose up to four characters. Any unclaimed player slots are filled in by the CPU. You are then quickly shuttled from minigame to minigame, three minigames per round. You are awarded orbs (points) according to your performance in each game. Some games are team challenges, in which case the winning team is awarded a number of orbs and the losers walk with nothing.

hopper1.jpg (3526 bytes)After each set of three minigames, you play Fuzion Frenzy in which you can wager or deposit the orbs you’ve won. Depositing orbs converts them immediately into points, which show at the bottom of the screen. If you wager your orbs, then you play with them in Fuzion Frenzy, where you risk having them stolen by other players. The advantage to wagering orbs is that they are worth more points in the Fuzion Frenzy arena, so you can manage big comebacks if you’re good.

scratch-v1.jpg (3669 bytes)Fuzion Frenzy is a simple game, as are all of the minigames in a tournament. In the Fuzion Frenzy you must run around an arena collecting orbs of your color and returning them to points denoted as goals. You may only pick up orbs of your color or white orbs, both of which appear randomly throughout the arena. You can smack other players to steal their orbs, scoring more points for yourself, and speed and weapon powerups appear randomly to spice things up. As the centerpiece of the game, Fuzion Frenzy is pretty good. It’s more complex, but you do it more and get good at it quickly. In fact, after a few tournaments, you might start feeling bored with Fuzion Frenzy, which indicates that one of two things is wrong. Either the Fuzion Frenzy round needs to be more complex in order to be more engaging, or the idea of having a certain game that recurs in each round is flawed. I would rather not play the same game at the end of each round, but wager on a random game so as to make it more important.

driller2.jpg (4393 bytes)The minigames are varied and, for the most part, really fun. They range from rhythm games to kart racers to reflex games to new takes on old classics. You might have to jump and duck at the right times while the characters run up a corkscrew treadmill, avoiding low overhangs and bumps that trip you. In many games you must collect and keep orbs, sometimes driving hover karts and sometimes driving tanks. In the most graphically gratuitous games you must gather fireworks and various firework elements to create pretty little explosions. Some of the wackiest games have a distinct Japanese flair to them, such as the minigame that has you squishing bugs in order to protect your giant cheeseburger. There are 45 minigames in all, and they are randomly assigned. My first couple tournaments were full of new games, but even after many, many rounds on Fuzion Frenzy I’m still surprised on occasion. Just when I think I must have played all of them, some new twist comes along.

grab0004.jpg (4798 bytes)Many of the games are fairly similar. There are a lot of games that have you collecting orbs and returning them to goals, and the only thing that differs between them is your chacter’s mode of transportation. The rhythm games are all similar, but some of the twists are invigorating. Playing a rhythm game following the computer is one thing, but playing when each player gets to set a portion of the button commands is another game entirely. Overall, there is a good variety, and none of the games last long enough to get too boring or annoying. The similarity in commands also prevents Fuzion Frenzy from being something you can get really good at – novices only take a few rounds to warm up to the overall gameplay style and experienced players can’t develop incredibly advanced skills.

clusteroids-v1.jpg (5380 bytes)So by now you’re probably wondering what is so adult about the game? It’s not that Fuzion Frenzy is full of sex and violence, or that it is full of details and requires specialized knowledge like complex flight simulators or wargames, but that it is incredibly streamlined and suited to actual adult congregations. Mario Party and Sonic Shuffle are great if you can stay up all night eating licorice and trying to unlock every gallery image or character. But my friends don’t play that way.

grab0028.jpg (5588 bytes)Fuzion Frenzy doesn’t make you sit through any cutscenes or story segments. There is nothing to it except the game – all 45 minigames just waiting for you to randomly stumble on them. There are only four characters, just enough to do the job. It is made to be thrown in, played by people who aren’t going to invest a whole lot of time into it, and then turned off. Fuzion Frenzy makes use of the Xbox hard drive and custom audio features, which allows you to replace the marginal club music with whatever tracks you’ve ripped to your console. Rounds take about fifteen minutes each, so it doesn’t have to be a big investment. This is a game designed to not alienate your friends, and I think it’s about damn time.

grab0002.jpg (5930 bytes)Having said all that, I would refrain from making a blanket statement that kids wouldn’t like this game. In fact, they probably would, at least for awhile, and possibly for a long time. It may be just the thing for your child’s next sleepover, too. Fuzion Frenzy is a solid title. The minigames are fun, and it is a bit addictive. Many times I found myself wanting to go again after a four round tournament, and I didn’t have a problem getting friends of all ages to play it. Fuzion Frenzy offers a lot of entertaining, light gameplay, and definitely warrants a spin at your next Xbox accompanied get together.

Shawn Rider   (11/27/2001)


Ups: Fun minigames and lots of them; quick gameplay; custom music.

Downs: A little bit simple; can be a little bit repetitive.

Platform: Xbox