Storm City, a publisher of both Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS games, seems to have a new strategy in place for its licensed titles. The new approach seems to be focused on making the Wii games the experimental ones. Whether it's an adventure game or a kart racing title, the Wii version tries to use conventional game design for the acquired licenses. The DS, on the other hand, is home to much safer fare, like puzzle games. While neither game would be excellent, the result is that the DS version would be better received should the Wii iteration be disastrous. That was the case for the Heathcliff license. With Beastly, the company's latest licensed game, the results seem to almost be the same. The Wii version was a terrible adventure game while the DS game, Beastly: Frantic Foto, is another puzzle title that is good but not exactly great..
Beastly: Frantic Foto is similar to the previous game in the series, Heathcliff: Frantic Foto, in just about every way. On the top and bottom screens of the DS, you're presented with an image from the movie. One image is slightly different from the other, and you're given a set amount of time to find the five differences in the photo set. Your time with each puzzle is limited, and if time expires without you finding all five differences, you lose a life and must try to solve the puzzle again, possibly with different flaws in place of old ones. You have a few power-ups that you can use at any time, including one that refills your timer, one that freezes time, one that uncovers one flaw in the puzzle, and one that uncovers every flaw in the puzzle. You can also collect letters that randomly appear throughout every level, and once the word "beastly" is spelled, bonus points are added to your total score.
Aside from the reference material, the game does a few things differently from its predecessors. Beastly: Frantic Foto is presented with the screens going horizontal instead of vertical, saving users the annoyance of switching system orientation whenever they navigate between game and menu. The minigame is a sliding puzzle instead of a whack-a-mole game; it feels like it natively belongs in the game instead of being shoehorned in at the last minute.
In a nice twist, the game features a multiplayer mode. It only consists of two players trying to solve the puzzle faster than the opponent, but for those who like hidden object games and competition, it works well enough. Sadly, few will ever get a chance to try it out because you need two carts to activate the mode; the cost ends up being prohibitive for something that seems simple enough to be done on single-cart multiplayer.
With the majority of the game being the same, Beastly: Frantic Foto runs into the same issues as the other games in the series, including a few that can't be helped due to the source material. Power-ups are still limited and have no way of refilling, so once they are used up, you'll have no relief if you run into more devious puzzles later on. In the slide puzzles, the tiles tend to move slowly since you have to drag each one into place instead of the movement being automatically done when a tile is swiped or tapped. The slide puzzles also use the same images as the hidden object puzzles, so it feels like the team ran out of images to use. It's understandable that there are only 90 images to peruse since only movie stills are utilized, but with an infinite continue system in place and no repetition of puzzles in the single-player mode, the entire game can be finished in an afternoon.
From a technical standpoint, the game works well enough. The controls are mostly taps and are responsive on the DS screen. The same can't be said of the slide puzzle mechanics since, as stated before, the swipes feel slow and sluggish. The sound is really comprised of tunes that serve well as background music. It's forgettable fare that is neither exciting nor offensive. Even though they're merely still pictures, the graphics impress simply because each picture is crisp and the alterations don't stick out like a poor digital photo job.
Considering how bad the Wii game was, Beastly: Frantic Foto ends up being the better game by default. It uses the source material well and presents it in a manner that will please fans of the movie. It still has issues to contend with, such as the limited amount of puzzles and a convoluted multiplayer process, but it's still a competent puzzle game. While it's easily recommended for fans of the movie, those who enjoy hidden object games won't feel too bad about renting this one.
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