Web Review: Frantic 2

Genre: Shooter
Developer: polymerrabbit
Platform: Internet
Release: September 1, 2009


In addition to games you download or install to your PC, I’ve decided to review Internet releases as well, provided they reach a certain level of depth. The reasons for this are twofold: some deserve recognition, and you can’t go on IGN or GameSpot for each one and read about the same shit. My first review involves a game by web creator polymerrabbit, one I’ve been playing on-and-off on Kongregate for many years:

Frantic 2 is a bullet hell shooter notable for how easy it can be. In it, you pilot one of five ships through patterns of enemies that launch circles, triangles, line segments, and other geometric shapes at you from across the screen. The game contains fifteen levels, which are split into three episodes that can be played in any order, and there are four additional game modes, two of which must be unlocked.

The sheer number of enemy projectiles can be daunting, especially when joined by opponents who carry lasers or homing missiles. Each level throws a mini-boss at you around halfway through, and a boss at the end, which spew enough geometry to fill the entire screen. They often carry missile or laser turrets, sometimes both at once, and survival requires careful maneuvering that limits your chances to aim clearly.

However, unlike many shooters, Frantic 2 allows your ship to survive multiple hits, and you can fly over enemy vessels without harm. Even if you die, you begin each episode with multiple lives, though the highest difficulty offers only two. By killing enemies, you slowly fill an adrenaline meter, which allows you to slow time, shield yourself, or unleash massive attacks that destroy enemy bullets. It makes for a refreshingly approachable experience. You increase your score multiplier by flying next to bullets and killing enemies at close range, but it gets sliced in half when you take a hit, so you’re still rewarded for mastering dangerous actions. By selecting the right card, these actions can also provide extra adrenaline or bonuses to weapon power.

Frantic 2‘s greatest strength is variety, often coming in fives. Five ships, five difficulty levels, and five cards for each of three categories. There are five primary weapons to choose from, ranging from shuriken to laser beams, and you can select between five types of wingmen, which fire rockets, particle showers, or other weapons in formation with you. Most of the options are satisfying, although enemies explode with a generic effect that irritated me after repeated playthroughs. It clashes with the rest of the visuals, which aren’t too pretty to begin with.

On that note, the game doesn’t show much variety in presentation. Each level shares the same soundtrack and boss theme, which would lose impact after five stages, to say nothing of fifteen. Sprites and in-game text are pixelated in a chunky way, not an endearing one, and most of the bullet effects are made from similar shapes and colors.

The game’s sole background is a white (or black, if you choose) space with a few particle effects to simulate motion. It makes the bullets easy to see, but that’s about all you can say for it. Even a simple grid would have looked more interesting.

The sheer number of enemy projectiles can be daunting, especially when joined by opponents who carry lasers or homing missiles. Each level throws a mini-boss at you around halfway through, and a boss at the end, which spew enough geometry to fill the entire screen. They often carry missile or laser turrets, sometimes both at once, and survival requires careful maneuvering that limits your chances to aim clearly.

However, unlike many shooters, Frantic 2 allows your ship to survive multiple hits, and you can fly over enemy vessels without harm. Even if you die, you begin each episode with multiple lives, though the highest difficulty offers only two. By killing enemies, you slowly fill an adrenaline meter, which allows you to slow time, shield yourself, or unleash massive attacks that destroy enemy bullets. It makes for a refreshingly approachable experience. You increase your score multiplier by flying next to bullets and killing enemies at close range, but it gets sliced in half when you take a hit, so you’re still rewarded for mastering dangerous actions. By selecting the right card, these actions can also provide extra adrenaline or bonuses to weapon power.

The typos get old, however

Between levels, you can upgrade your ship with coins dropped by fallen enemies, swapping weapons, upgrading their power, or purchasing cards that confer special benefits. These cards provide much of Frantic 2‘s tactical depth, allowing your ship to regenerate health, move faster, disable enemy missiles, suck in faraway coins, or perform other feats. Initially, only two can be carried, but beating any episode unlocks a third slot. There are also several unlockable cards, enhancing replay value.

For fans of more brutal shooters, the Kamikaze card makes your ship go down in one hit, with a small boost in weapon power for compensation. It can be unlocked by completing two levels without taking any hits.

As mentioned, there are four additional games modes. Arcade removes the shop, providing upgrades based on your ship choice. Another mode offers a prolonged fight against all thirty bosses and mini-bosses. Endurance requires you to complete all 15 levels in one sitting. Survival is the game’s greatest challenge, offering an endless battle where one hit is fatal.

For those interested, Frantic 2 also offers leaderboards. It’s a considerable slice of content, and progression is fast and clean, with no hint of grinding or other tedious padding. I unlocked everything several years ago, but I still return on occasion.

I’ve docked 0.5 points because of my issues with artwork and sound, but otherwise it’s solid.

Rating: 7.5/10 (Good)

Here’s a link, if you want to play it yourself:
Kongregate: http://www.kongregate.com/games/polymerrabbit/frantic-2?acomplete=frantic2

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