The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2
The second chapter in Brad Borne's epic tale of a man with righteous pants is here, and it is spectacular. The Fancy Pants Adventure: World Two is a Flash platform game focused on high-speed acrobatics, like a hand-drawn Sonic the Hedgehog. Twice the size of the original Fancy Pants Adventure, World 2 is one of the most ambitious, audacious Flash games out there, bursting with thrills, imagination, and whimsy. It even comes with its own motto — "Be fancy" — and that is probably the best advice you'll get from a video game this year.
Move left and right with the arrow keys and press [S] to jump. Press [down] to slide mid-run or roll down hills. You will encounter big black spiders and snails, and these can be dispatched by bouncing on their heads or sliding into them. But enemies are rare. Most of your time will be spent charging around in a gleeful trance, exploring the exaggerated physics of the Fancy Pants universe.
The game is best played supersonically. "Be fancy," the game tells you, and you obey, pirouetting off the heads of spiders, performing superfluous backflips over mountain peaks, wall-kicking up the sides of buildings. Even standing still, Fancy Pants Man is loose and restless, his arms slack, his magnificent hair bobbing with internal rhythm. He yearns to be fancy, to hurtle recklessly through the air, to play golf with a snail shell, to trip through the treetops like an extravagant ninja. He's the Zaphod Beeblebrox of stick figures, always halfway through his leap before he thinks to look, so cool you could store a side of meat in him for a month.
And the level design accommodates his whims, presenting you with grand curling cliffsides to sprint up, and platforms at just the right height to keep you running after a solid wall-jump. You can always slow down to hunt for secrets or murder a few spiders, but the lovely part of this game is that you can play as smoothly or as choppily as you like. You will be rewarded for searching thoroughly, but there is always an impressive line through each level, a speed-run that rewards you in pure blink-less satisfaction. That's the kind of thing that makes gamers into super-fans, recording their best times and posting them on Youtube.
Analysis: In some ways, World 2 shows the strain of its ambition. The graphics are much more detailed in some areas than others, and at the time of this writing, the music and secret trophies are still not included. Hours after its first release, the gaming public found dozens of bugs (most of which have been fixed). The lack of new enemies, the inconsistency of the art style, and the overall brief playing time suggests that the Fancy Pants Adventures are not yet all that they could be.
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But what's here is fantastic. The background artwork bristles with humorous doodles. The bonus levels are fully-realized worlds unto themselves. Running upside down and shooting yourself out of cannons is exactly as great as it sounds, and the main character has the charisma and responsiveness to make it all seem easy. If the game is short, it is because there is no waste. As soon as a level runs out of ideas, it ends. And with cheerful disregard for narrative transitions, the door you open in, say, a desert, leads directly to, say, a futuristic cityscape.
It is a work of passion and escape, the game equivalent of a beach holiday in Mexico. Treasure it while it lasts. Be fancy.
(Update: Music and bonuses have been added!)