Hey, F.U!... no, wait, don't tell my mom! Geez, I just wanted to talk to you about Fantasy University, the RPG that you play alone or with a friend and parodies roughly everything under the sun. You start off as a new student at the prestigious titular university full of bright-eyed optimism and the desire to lay a beat-down on something. But will you become just another face in the crowd of demented students? Or are you destined for something greater?... well... duh. Nobody wants to play a game about someone who does mostly okay in most of their classes and occasionally has to write their parents for money after all.
The game comes with character classes, but they aren't what you might be expecting. Cheermongers can psyche themselves up with energetic buffs or heal during combat, for example, while Mathemagicians can use the awesome power of, uh, math to blow things up when they're not being taped inside garbage cans by the school jocks. As in most MMORPGs, you'll want to keep an eye on your health and ability power (necessary to stay alive and use special skills, respectively) but F.U. also wants you to keep track of how many Adventures you have. You spend one Adventure to perform most actions, like fighting, and they gradually replenish over time. Once you run out, you'll need to wait a while before you can play again.
While there's a heavy push to get you to play with your friends via the in-game BFF system, which lets other players help you out in a fight or during specific quests, F.U. can still be played completely solitary for the most part. There are a few optional side-quests that require a friend of a specific class to complete, but the amount of single-player content more than makes up for it. You'll travel all over the weird and wonderful world in your quest to do stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, there's something strange happening at the festival in Bacon Acres, and the burg of Pleasanton is dealing with a rather unfortunate infestation. On the campus itself you'll find suspicious (but familiar!) faces, a rather unorthodox approach to Home Economics, a dreamy (and steamy) doctor, and a lot more.
Analysis: While the way adventures are doled out means F.U. is the sort of game you play in coffee-break spurts rather than for hours at a time, this was definitely a title I was always happy to come back to because there's always something new and weird to see. There's no question that F.U. nails its presentation in more ways than just quirky artwork either; everything about the package fits the theme, from the to the cheery "Good Job!" encouragement stickers the pop up when you successfully pulverise some unfortunate foe. Whether you find the majority of the content funny is probably going to depend on how well versed you are in pop culture; there are parodies within parodies, combining to make some sort of weird Mecha Parody, on everything from Gordon Ramsay to Scrubs to Zoolander and more.
Anyone who has ever played Kingdom of Loathing or Legend of the Green Dragon will be familiar with this style of gameplay, though F.U. definitely borrows more from the former both in mechanics and overall tone. A few of the quest structures even remind me a little of K.O.L., in particular one where you're forced to pick a side between warring factions (only here it's fruit farmers rather than fraternities). Still, I wouldn't exactly call F.U. a clone, since to me that implies something that's virtually indistinguishable from its source material. There's no denying the inspiration, but F.U. manages to do enough with its stellar presentation and writing that it never really feels boring or too familiar.
Fantasy University is still a work in progress, however, and what's great about this is that the developers have shown a willingness to listen to players and incorporate suggestions into the game itself. During the time I was writing this, in fact, the servers went down for a few hours only to reemerge after several large balance changes had been made that largely struck down most of my complaints, which kind of took the wind out of my sails a little because I do so love to complain. Some annoyances remain; only being able to sell one type of item at a time makes lightening your inventory tedious, especially since you're never asked whether you want all the junk you get for winning fights, and navigation still feels cumbersome with a lot of clicking around sub-menus to get where you want to go.
But I'm okay with that, because, as mentioned, the game is still growing and evolving. While it's not something you might necessarily foresee completely dominating the social RPG genre, if you enjoy those types of games at all Fantasy University is definitely one you should consider adding to your roster. It's strange, it's funny, it's extremely well written and looks very nice to boot. It hardly revolutionizes the genre, but instead just concentrates on providing something that's a lot of fun to play and explore in. There's a ton of content to keep you busy, and for genre fans there's every reason in the world to at least check it out. Just make sure you steer clear of the janitor; I heard someone put a penny in a door once, and you don't even want to know what happened to that guy.
Update: This game is no longer available to play. Previously tagged as: adventure, browser, dhtml, free, game, linux, mac, multiplayer, parody, rating-r, rpg, simutronicscorp, singleplayer, windows