Monday, June 16, 2008

Four Second Frenzy

(Sorry for missing yesterday! Somehow I convinced myself I had already written one for the day. I'll see if I can squeeze in another, but you may have to wait for tomorrow.)

(Four Second Frenzy is the second-to-last of the games I have in this list which I had played and completed before reaching Kongregate. It also took the least amount of time to re-earn the badge, since four seconds, even times 50, is not a particularly long time.)

(I'm skipping Areas right now, because I haven't yet finished it and I want to stay true to my pledge to not review games until I've finished them, though I doubt the last three levels will change my opinion. So this parenthetical is really more of a reminder.)

(Holy parenthetical notes, Batman! Shouldn't we actually get to the actual post?)

If you've played WarioWare, then Four Second Frenzy should look awfully familiar. The concept is very simple: you're presented with a series of "microgames", each of which lasts the titular four seconds. (Well, four seconds at maximum. It is possible to fail or succeed, depending on the game, in less than four seconds.) Each game uses a very simplified control set (just the arrow keys and space bar, and not every game even uses all of those), and all of the instructions you get about each game are presented in a quickly-flashed command at the beginning (like "Avoid!" or "Get treasure!"). When you first play the game, of course, trying to figure out what you need to do and then doing it in the space of four seconds is a very entertaining challenge, but after you've seen the games a few times, it becomes much easier. Unlike WarioWare, where the game difficulty changes in two ways (over time, the games speed up, and the goals become more difficult to achieve (for instance, the target you have to hit becomes smaller)), the games in Four Second Frenzy are always the same, meaning that the replay value is pretty low after you've finished everything. The game offers a variety of game modes, which are not particularly different. Normal mode requires you to beat 20 games within 7 lives, followed by a boss; endurance mode gives you 10 lives to beat all 50 games and the boss; and survival mode gives you a single life to see how far you can get.

The strength and weakness of Four Second Frenzy is the diversity of game design. In WarioWare, all of the games (or at least all the games in a single category) have a fairly unified aesthetic, which makes them feel like a nice package. Four Second Frenzy, though, has microgames contributed by a horde of developers, which means that no two games feel exactly alike. Indeed, everything from the art style to the difficulty to even the feel of the directions varies wildly from one microgame to another. This results in kind of a disorienting experience. The varying difficulty can be annoying, too; there are some games which are almost insultingly easy, while other games are infuriatingly difficult (and often dependent on the initial conditions). Especially frustrating is that the physics laws often change unexpectedly: in some levels, pressing the arrows will change the velocity of your object, while in some levels it will change the position, and telling which is which is often impossible.

As far as presentation goes, the graphics (as mentioned) vary wildly, but usually are at least serviceable; most of the individual microgames don't have their own sound, though there is an occasional effect or two, and there are some general success or failure sounds. The overall soundtrack is provided by a techno track which does a nice job of lending the appropriate intensity to the proceedings.

Overall, Four Second Frenzy is a fun little game to play with for a little while, but once you've gotten the hang of most of the minigames and gotten the badge, there's really not much reason to keep playing that long.

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