When attempting to describe Fantavision to someone, one cannot help but make a comparison to the old arcade classic Missile Command. It's true, Fantavision's gameplay bears a strong resemblance to that Atari classic, and the gameplay can be similarly mind-bending and, at times, frustrating. But unlike Missile Command, Fantavision is an out and out puzzle game that offers a less aggressive, oddly soothing game experience.
Choosing the road less traveled by puzzle games, Fantavision is based on the relatively unique premise of the detonation of fireworks. As multicolored flares are launched into the air, you use the left analog pad and the X button to capture the flares and the circle button to detonate them. A minimum of three like-colored flares must be captured before they can be detonated, though with the use of bonus flares and multicolored "wild" flares, the number of flares you can capture for one detonation is nearly limitless. The bonus flares range from score multipliers to star bonuses. The star bonuses can be added up to create a "starmine," which is basically a fast and furious session in the middle of a round that allows you to rack up extra points by capturing and chaining together large quantities of flares. The single-player mode in Fantavision can be a pleasant diversion, though with only eight levels of play, the novelty wears off fairly quickly. The real draw, as far as gameplay is concerned, is the two-player mode. With the field of play split vertically, you can go head-to-head with another player, attempting to detonate a preset number of flares before your opponent. The two-player mode adds in two new power-ups, which, when used properly, can significantly affect the outcome of the game. The move power-up pushes the line splitting the field of play toward your opponent, making your field of play larger and your opponent's field of play smaller. The reverse power-up flips the fields, giving you access to any flares on your opponent's field. This can be most useful when an opponent sets off a starmine, as you can then reap the benefits of his or her bonus. The two-player mode not only adds a competitive angle to a game that is otherwise noncompetitive, but it also breathes a good deal of life into a game that would've otherwise been worthy of a rental at best.
Puzzle games are rarely showcases of graphical prowess, but Fantavision is a pleasant exception. It may not be the most breathtaking of the PlayStation 2 launch titles, but it holds its own nonetheless. The large colorful fireworks displays are a pleasure to look at, and the backgrounds - which range from cityscapes to abstract sections of deep space - look excellent and are teeming with detail. With the PlayStation 2 processing the whole mess, the game never dips below 60 fps, even during the most intense fireworks displays. The soundtrack underscores the game nicely, consisting mostly of inoffensive elevator music. If these kitschy tunes aren't to your liking, worry not, as they are used primarily as a filler between the excellent pops and bangs of the igniting pyrotechnics.
Fantavision neither revolutionizes nor damages the genre, it simply comes out somewhere in between. The advantage of being the first puzzle title on the PS2, combined with the game's eye candy and two-player mode, definitely works in the game's favor. In the end, Fantavision is little more than a pleasantly entertaining puzzle game.