What’s your videogame origin story? Everyone has one; it’s the game that hit you like a radioactive spider bite the first time you played it and turned you into the gamer you are today. I’ll bet for most gamers, it was one of the classic 2D side-scrolling platformers that were popular on 8 or 16 bit systems from way back when. I certainly remember the day my friend got his Nintendo Entertainment System and fired up Super Mario Bros. for the first time. I could tell the world was changing. However, it changed for others and not me. So while all my friends transformed into heroes and stomped every mushroom ever, I looked on, slightly confused by this colorful, odd, and, to me, incredibly difficult bit of Japanese electronic wonderment. I asked myself, “What was the big deal? You run to the right and jump, FOREVER.” But eventually I too was blessed with my own spider bite in the form of Lara Croft and traveled a very different path than those old friends on the way to gaming heaven.
But I’ll never forget those strange summer days that I spent in dusty basements or stuffy bedrooms watching my friends dominate Bowser and save Princess Peach. Now that I’m old enough to have developed some hindsight and a mild longing for a clichéd reconnection to those days long gone, my thoughts return to the side-scrolling platformer. I’m driven by unseen forces to seek them out like a salmon is driven to swim upstream, and occasionally I find something that reminds me how much fun can be had by simply running to the right and jumping forever, with nary a broken hooker, headshot, or 3D spinning blade trap to be seen.
Recently, I played another such game with none of the trappings of the modern world. The Fancy Pants Adventures features all the hallmarks of those great side-scrollers of the past: Shinnies to collect, enemies whose heads need to be pounced on to overcome, bottomless pits, and a mainly left to right flow of gameplay. Will it take me back to those dusty basement and stuffy bedroom days of my youth? I guess you’ll just have to read on to find out.
Based on the popular flash game developed by Brad Bourne, The Fancy Pants Adventures (heretofore known as TFPA) takes the protagonist, Fancy Pants Man, and sets him in a new adventure in and around his home of Squiggleville. There is a narrative this time around. It involves pirates that have kidnapped Fancy Pants Man’s sister, Cutie Pants Girl, and some nonsense about stealing the Mayor of Squiggleville’s bathtub. It’s silly to be sure, and absolutely not integral to one’s enjoyment of the game itself, but it is there - complete with dialogue that appears in comic book-style word bubbles.
It’s appropriate that TFPA uses comic book styling in its presentation because its most striking non-gameplay related feature is its hand-drawn art style. And what an art style it is, too. Bright, bold, multi-faceted and multi-layered, TFPA is one of the best looking downloadable games I’ve ever seen. It’s not rocking show-offy textures or anything, but it is 100% gorgeous to look at. Honestly, I’ve never been quite so affected by 2D graphics before. I just love the way the game looks and am a little surprised that I can still be moved by a visual style that I thought lost its relevance years ago.
Anyway, TFPA’s ten Levels range from industrial areas that sport shipping containers to leap from to beaches and forests, and everyone is intricately designed with multiple layers in the background giving each an impressive faux depth that I greatly enjoyed. I found the amount of detail both in the levels and on Fancy Pants Man to be almost equally impressive. FPM’s hair and pants (yes he’s still sporting his trademark orange pants - more on that later) flap in the wind as FPM runs at an almost Sonic the Hedgehog-like speed. Artistically rendered clouds of dust are kicked up whenever FPM lands on a surface, slides to a stop, or changes direction. All in all the visuals were a treat, vaguely reminiscent of Kirby’s Epic Yarn in their simplicity, but better looking.
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