Frobisher Says: Manic minigames you won’t forget

November 4, 2012

In a time in which smaller, independent digital-only games on consoles continue to struggle with figuring out reasonable price points and sensible release windows (especially on the Vita), Sony has thrown us a curveball: a free game! Well, for the most part. Frobisher Says, from European developer Honeyslug, is a WarioWare-inspired, rapid-fire cacophony of minigames that was created as a way to show off the myriad of gameplay features of which the Vita is capable. Frobisher uses everything: both touch screens, all of the buttons, the camera (for pictures and augmented reality) and the motion sensor. The game was released at launch in Europe, and probably would have been a much bigger deal than it will be in North America had it been available then as a more interesting alternative to Welcome Park. The price tag of no dollars, though, should definitely grab some attention.

The art style of Frobisher Says is all over the place, in a good way. Artist Richard Hogg enlisted talent from within and outside of the game industry, from comic book artists to medical textbook illustrators. The overall aesthetic of the game is somewhat reminiscent of Parappa the Rapper: a brightly-colored, surrealist cartoon world of intentionally-clashing styles works out perfectly in parallel to the frantic nature of the gameplay. The soundtrack of the game is equally kinetic, hopping from genre to genre in seconds.

When you start the game, you’re offered two modes of play. One is timed; you play until the end and your points are tallied for the obligatory leaderboards. The other is survival (my preferred choice), which has you playing until you lose. As you play and reach certain landmarks, you can unlock more games. An option to purchase more also exists, though the pack isn’t available on the store yet. It’s okay though, as there is plenty of free content to work with regardless of whether or not you decide you wish to purchase more.

Most of the games are fun, and what you’d expect from what is essentially a WarioWare game with an unsettling British guy rather than a haggard garlic addict. You have to be on your toes though, as any moment could bring a game that requires you to be on your feet in search of either an object of a given color or a decent light source for the horrid front camera for a smiling mug shot. The camera minigames can be annoying if you aren’t expecting them, but they’re also quite technically impressive. The humor is strikingly surreal rather than grasping at being outwardly weird like its peers, which was admittedly offputting at first, but it definitely grew on me.

The primary issue with the game is with the multiplayer. It seems great at first, with a surprising focus on local play. Up to eight players can join in, passing off the Vita to the next player after a set of games. Sounds pretty great, right? The problem: each round is the same. You play a few minigames, and then the person next to you plays the exact same group of games. It makes sense for the score attack mode (which in and of itself feels out of place, since there is so little room for error in these games, so unless someone messes up the scores will hardly be different) but in survival mode, you still play the same minigames as each player, which ruins the tension and element of surprise that these games require to remain interesting. It’s especially so for new players, since they’re going to see the same set of games over and over, and by the time their turn rolls around, there’s no point. (Unless you play without allowing the rest of the group to watch, but that’s silly.)

I really can’t not recommend at the very least giving Frobisher Says a whirl, since the only thing you can lose is time, and not much time at that due to the nature of the game. If you ever considered yourself a fan of WarioWare, definitely snag it, as it is probably the most fully-realized WarioWare knockoff yet.

Pros: Uses every facet of the Vita, has great sense of style and humor
Cons: Multiplayer is disappointing, locked pay content for a game advertised as free

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.