Inside Pulse 12

Review: Foto Frenzy (Nintendo DS)

Foto Frenzy
Publisher: Storm City Games
Developer: Storm City Games
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 11/24/2009

I’m going to start out by saying that by no means am I a casual gamer. Quite the opposite actually. However, what I am is someone that does go to the bars. And one thing I notice in bars is that most of them have a touchscreen monitor that acts as sort of a pay to play arcade that offers card games, puzzle games, and one of my favorites, a game by the name of Photo Hunt. Foto Frenzy attempts to recreate the bar/restaurant experience of spotting photo differences on your Nintendo DS. But the question is, is the portable rendition worth more than a few quarters to play?

Let’s Review

Story/Modes
The story to this game is that you are a photo journalist trying to make it big in the world of newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately, your greatest rival has been stealing your photos and doing horrible Photoshop work on them, forever tarnishing your name. It is up to you to find the differences between the originals and the photoshopped pictures so that you can correct them and retain your dignity…

Just kidding.

But seriously, why don’t games like this have storylines? I bet Tetris would’ve done even better for itself with a convoluted good vs. evil plot, but that’s a discussion for another day..

It is true though, that the main purpose of this game is to compare two different photos and figure out five differences between the two of them. The top screen has the original and the bottom screen has the picture with the modifications that you have to point out with the stylus. You have a limited amount of time to do this and picking the wrong thing reduces your time even more. If you get stuck, you can tap the magnifying glass on the bottom of your screen to have the game pick one out for you, but these are limited as well and you have to obtain more through points earned.

The main mode is essentially just a series of photo pairs that you must solve, followed by what I will refer to as a bonus round. The thing about this bonus round is that, like the pictures that came before it, if you happen to fail at it you will have to start the whole series over. These bonus rounds alternate between a sort of lightning round, where you go back through the pictures you’ve already completed and pick one difference quickly before moving on to the next one, as well as sliding block puzzles. Yes, you heard me. Sliding block puzzles. In a game where you find differences in pictures, you are also tasked with piecing together a picture that has been chopped up and scrambled around. You have one open space to work with, and must move one piece at a time into this open space until you can get all the pieces to forms the photo that had been scrambled.

Let me just say that these sliding block puzzles completely ruined the experience for me. I was actually having a pretty decent time with this game until the first time I had to solve one. I was ready to chuck my DS out the window in frustration every time I was forced to play one of these blasted puzzles. If you like these kinds of challenges, then more power to you, they certainly add to the difficulty of an already fairly easy game. Just be aware that they feel extremely out of place within the context of the main game.

Outside of the main mode, you can choose to do a custom game where you can redo any of the pictures you’ve already done in single player if you so choose. Also, you can do some more lightning rounds and sliding puzzles (ugh) if those tickle your fancy as well.

There’s also support for four player, single cart play if you can find a bunch of friends that would actually want to play this with you. I had an opportunity to try this out, and it actually wasn’t too bad. You can play cooperatively with your friends to see if you can spot all the differences together, or you can compete to see who can find them all the fastest. There’s also a Last Man Standing mode that eliminates players that are unable to spot a difference before the other players. The game does not support play over Nintendo Wi-Fi, but this isn’t a title that really needs it.

Story/Modes Rating: Decent

Graphics
This is a difficult category to judge, considering the only things you’ll be looking at throughout the majority of the game are two pictures. With that said, the DS console doesn’t seem to display the pictures with enough clarity to pick out most of the little nuances that differentiate the photos. The photos themselves look very professional, and you’ll often find yourself being distracted by the scenery as opposed to finding the differences you’ve been tasked with.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sounds
You’re going to hear only a few things in this entire game: the clicks and buzzes that occur when you tap things on the touchscreen, the warning beeps of time running out, and the same song looping over, and over, and over… and over. Seriously, would it have killed them to have more than one song play in the background of this game? There is a different song that plays during multiplayer, why couldn’t they have added that song to the rotation? If you plan to have headphones on while playing this game, make sure the other end is plugged into an iPod.

Sound Rating: Worthless

Control/Gameplay
There isn’t much to the controls, and they are incredibly user friendly. You use the stylus to control the entirety of the game. The touchscreen was very responsive, and there didn’t appear to be any instances of tapping the wrong thing simply because the alignment was off.

If I could add anything to the controls, it would be a way to pick up the pieces in the sliding block puzzles and put them in place like a traditional puzzle, instead of sliding them one by one. Sorry, but I’m not going to let that one go!

Control/Gameplay Rating: Above Average

Replayability
There are a ton of pictures in this game and it will take you quite a while to get through them all. The unfortunate thing about these kinds of games, is that once you do try all of them once, you will already know what to do and will have little incentive to come back. There are four different difficulties (although I didn’t notice too much of a difference between them) and there’s always the opportunity to try to top your high scores. Since there are no leaderboards though, there will be no one to prove your photo finding prowess to besides yourself.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance
As I mentioned above, even though there are four different difficulties, the changes were so minute that I didn’t even notice. As for the pictures themselves, most of them fell into the two extremes of either being stupidly easy, or relied on such subtle changes that it would be extremely difficult to spot them without hints. There are a few mixed in that lead you on by giving you a few incredibly obvious differences and then hiding the rest with a level of difficulty that borders on unfairness. There never seems to be a happy medium challenge-wise with any of the puzzles. Not to mention the aggravating sliding puzzles that are the game’s way of mocking you and making you do the whole series of pictures that you just did over again.

Balance Rating: Poor

Originality
While the idea of comparing two pictures is not by any means new, it wasn’t until now that we had a game console with the technology capable of implementing the idea successfully. Of all the systems on the market right now, this game is a perfect fit for the DS’s technology, and allowing local single-pack multiplayer gameplay only sweetens the deal.

Originality Rating: Decent

Addictiveness
The first time I picked this up, I was having a blast with this game. But the moment the first sliding puzzle started, my mood went from entertained to aggravated in a heartbeat and effectively killed whatever fun I may have been having up to that point. That’s how powerful a mistake it was to put these puzzles into the game and why I keep bringing it up. Not everybody is going dislike them as much as me, obviously. But they are extremely out of place, especially as a requirement to advance through the game.

Addictiveness Rating: Poor

Appeal Factor
This is definitely one of those games that has an incredibly simple concept for anybody to just pick up and play. Unfortunately, the inconsistency in the gameplay may turn off a few people from playing it for long. I do think that it would make a great family multiplayer game, as working together to conquer the different photos as a team is probably the single most enjoyable experience in this title.

Appeal Rating: Decent

Miscellaneous
This title is available for only $19.99, so for the budget conscious gamer, this is definitely one of those games that won’t break the bank if you just want to try it out or were a fan of the Photo Hunt game. However, and I will mention it again, the original Photo Hunt never had ridiculous sliding puzzles to deal with in order to progress through the game. If it did, I would likely have attempted to bust the machine to get my quarters back, all the while being escorted out by the bar staff and eventually being arrested for property damage. Well, perhaps that’s being a little dramatic, but those puzzles are annoying and they seriously killed the game experience for me.

It’s worth mentioning the fact that while playing the multiplayer mode single-pack, the game is fully featured. Most titles restrict you to a solitary level to merely taste what the game is all about. But Foto Frenzy allows all players to experience every level and feature as if they had the game pack themselves.

Miscellaneous Rating: Mediocre

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Mediocre
Sounds: Worthless
Controls/Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Decent
Miscellaneous: Mediocre

Final Score: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
If you plan to play this game with family and friends, then it’s a great example of some inexpensive, casual entertainment to be had with your Nintendo DS. However, the inconsistent single player design will prevent most from spending more than a few minutes with it by themselves. Sober or not, this is not the same game you sank many quarters into at the bar.

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  • deeeeeva

    I agree whole heartedly with this review (thanks Sean). The game was mildly entertaining for me even with the extremely subtle and borderline unfair nuanced photo differences, but the sliding puzzle instantly squelched all fun. The very idea that one must complete an inane and out of place sliding puzzle to advance in this game is absurd – even cruel. Had I known about these sliders, I would have returned this game to the store unopened (Christmas gift). I now have to settle for a mere trade in.

  • Sean Madson

    My condolences for receiving this game as a gift for Christmas. I hope the trade in value is significant enough to contribute to a better game. Otherwise, you may have to force the gift giver to play multiplayer with you. It’s actually a pretty decent mode. Anyways, thanks for the input!