Heavy on whimsy, offbeat humour and sweet stunts, Fancy Pants Man and his brand of floaty platforming has been delighting the PC crowd for some time courtesy of Brad Borne's excellent Flash games. There's a childlike delight inherent in the design of Squigglyland: bright bold, colours, snazzy trousers (or Fancy Pants, if you will), cartoonish enemies and the rakish hairstyle of Fancy Pants Man himself. It's a delight expressed through the playing style too. Whereas its platform contemporaries - cue the comparisons to Super Meat Boy and N+ - have rather more puzzling elements to their levels, Fancy Pants is all about exploration.
On his quest to pick up a load of squiggles, you'll be flinging Fancy Pants left right and centre, the heightened physics of Borne's Crayola world placing specific emphasis on motion and momentum. As well as leaping around and backflipping about like a flared loon, Fancy Pants can get a healthy head of steam up and can be pretty tricky to halt when fully flying. But that speed can be utilised in so very many ways. Go from a run into a skid and Mr Fancy Pants can slide under low ceilings and batter adversaries. Hit a wall with enough pace and he'll be able to do a wall run, before leaping off once more. He's quite a versatile chap, really.
This is even more noticeable in the console version. Aided by a silky smooth framerate, the level design has been expanded upon - the platforming playgrounds are pretty enormous, with numerous routes to explore, and plenty that Borne and his small team have designed and constructed to allow for multiple playthroughs. Cannons that can fire you across the screen, water features that allow for dolphin jumps, vast open cavernous spaces for full tilt acrobatics, these are the instruments of enjoyment. Borne's created a colourful world perfectly suited to console controls which, like all of the best games of this type, establishes the rules and then lets you run amok and have fun with them, setting up playgrounds waiting to be explored.
Even better than all of this, though, is the fact that this console release will feature multiplayer. Throwing in competitive elements to the already exuberant gameplay is a masterstroke and will surely be the biggest draw for the game. All facets of the game can be enjoyed with up to four players online and offline and working through the levels with a three other people is an exercise in frenetic capitalism and acrobatic backstabbing.
The goal is the same: collect as many squiggly goodies as you possibly can and leg it to the end of the level. But now, of course, there are three others competing for those precious squiggles and if one of your garishly attired stick fellows seems to be nosing in front, you can always hit them with a humorously random implement to dislodge their stash or punt them off of the screen. Some levels, however, encourage co-operation - or sneaky assistance - jumping on the heads of your peers to reach higher platforms or using them as missiles to fend off enemies.
The levels are big enough that everyone can go off and kind of do their own thing and the camera will zoom out to accommodate as much of the action as it can, but there is a bit of a limit. It'll tend to broadly focus on the player furthest down the line in terms of geographical location and you you find yourself outside the frame of the action, you'll have only a handful of seconds to blindly find your way back. This is something of a problem in the race modes that allow lagging players to teleport back into the fray with great ease. Losing a life is a small price to pay for positional gain.
King of the Hill, however, is absolute gold. Set in smaller, tighter environments, there's a cannon at the top in the middle of the area spewing up squiggles and the players are once again tasked with snaffling up as many as possible before the timer runs out. My first round, as my opponents wall jumped their way up to the cannon, I hung back down below and scavenged any bouncing squiggles that escaped their clutches and was pleased to see an early lead develop. However, then one particularly took control of the upper area and I was forced to jump into the scrambling mess and get stuck in. It was a lot of fun. Part Smash Bros. - part LittleBigPlanet, it's a fantastical little party mode.
There's extra incentive too: at the end of each level, your position in relation to the other players determines the order in which you're allowed to start from for a big prize scramble. There are loads of unlockables to be had, from new weapons to snazzier, fancier pants to top hats and wigs. Borne told us that the content package will be well worth the money, with no plans as yet for DLC down the line (he hates microtransactions), although he didn't rule it out completely.
We had an absolute blast mucking about in the console incarnation of Squigglyland, the multiplayer elements really ushering in a whole new level of fun. Hopefully the popularity of the Flash games will transfer over to the console market, because on the evidence of our laughter-filled half hour demo, Fancy Pants Adventures is looking like it'll be an absolute riot.
It's hits the PSN on the 19th and XBLA a day later on the 20th.