The Fancy Pants Adventures

A game by Brad Borne and Over The Top Games for PS3 and Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
Fancy Pants Man makes his console debut in The Fancy Pants Adventures, but you may already know this stick figure (and his fancy pants) from his previous free-to-play Flash-based adventures. But even if you’ve spent some time with those, you’ll be pleased to know that Fancy Pants Man has a few new tricks up his sleeves… er, pants… this time around, with a bigger and more detailed world to explore, new enemies, a new set of moves, and new challenges to overcome. But before we get into that, let’s talk about the origins of this acrobatic doodle and how he made the sliding-dash-jump to consoles.

The original game, The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 1, (a.k.a. The Adventures of Fancy Pants Man) was created by Brad Borne as part of a planned episodic platforming game series. World 1 consists of 3 sizeable levels and a boss fight. It was during the development of this game that Brad’s knowledge of Flash development grew, and he experimented with a number of animations and gameplay concepts. The success of the original game led to an improved sequel, logically titled The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2, with a greater number of levels and more environmental diversity.

With two successful releases under his belt, the development of World 3 seemed to be inevitable… but we’ll come back to that. Instead, Brad’s next release was a Flash-based version of Mirror’s Edge, starring the tattooed freerunner Faith as she dashes across rooftops in a 2D take of the 3D original. You can read more about Mirror’s Edge 2D and the first two Fancy Pants games in the 2D CRED section below.

Mirror’s Edge 2D was developed as part of Electronic Arts’ EA2D partners program, which is an internal EA group that focuses on direct-to-market games. The EA2D program also helped Brad to bring his formerly Flash-exclusive Fancy Pants series over to consoles. To do this, EA brought in Over The Top Games, developers of the 2.5D action-adventure title NyxQuest: Kindrid Spirits, who worked with Brad to bring the game to fruition.

So, whatever happened to The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 3, you ask? It’s right here! But this time around, it’s free from any of the restrictions of the Flash platform, allowing for even larger, more detailed levels. Brad will eventually be bringing World 3 out as a Flash release, but the console version will offer the optimum gameplay experience, with everything you’d expect from a downloadable title, not the least of which is the ability to play the game with a controller in front of your HDTV.

Oh, and double-bonus… You may have noticed that the console version of the game is titled The Fancy Pants Adventures. That’s plural, with no “World #” subtitle. That’s because this game will have all of the levels from World 1 and 2, as well as the newly-developed World 3 content.

In The Fancy Pants Adventures, you control Fancy Pants Man, a stick figure on a quest to rescue his sister, Cutie Pants, as he dashes through numerous doodle-style action-platforming worlds. The action in the game is very momentum based, and Fancy Pants Man will be jumping, sliding down slopes, wall jumping, flipping up over half-pipes, and tackling enemies.

Rather than the tile-based structure you may be used to seeing in 2D games, the levels here are completely hand-drawn. This helps to retain the doodle-like style of the world, but also allows for natural slopes and a wide variety of environments. The game definitely shares the same style as its Flash-based progenitors, but there’s more detail packed into the environments and animations.

For a stick figure, Fancy Pants Man has a great deal of personality. For one, he has brightly-colored pants (with new colors unlockable) and a wild springy rooster comb haircut. But what really sells his character is his animation. Fancy Pants Man’s hair whips around when he runs, and his body bends to slide down slopes, run up walls (imported from Mirror’s Edge 2D!), and dash along the ground. The animation is very fluid and looks natural when you’re stringing moves together.

In fact, the game even features skate park-style challenge areas where Fancy Pants Man is rewarded for stringing moves together into huge combos, collecting squiggles to build up a multiplier, and getting bigger bonuses for using new moves (as opposed to repeating the same ones over and over). Many different kinds of challenge areas are tucked away throughout the game – one in each level – for you to uncover and overcome.

Challenge areas help you to further hone your environmental navigation skills, which you’ll need to keep sharp if you hope to make it through the game, at least with any kind of speed. Early on, you’ll be able to complete most areas with just your basic running and jumping moves, but you’re going to need to master some more advanced techniques to make it through the later levels. Many of the levels have multiple paths, sort of like a high road and a low road, but really more like a fast road and a slow road. Once you get a feel for the controls and start mastering Fancy Pants Man’s movements, you can blaze through the levels with wall runs, wall jumps, slides, ledge grabs, backflips, and more.

Horizontally, apt use of the controller can help you maintain your momentum. Downward slopes will help you move faster and jump further, where upward slopes will help you jump higher. But you’ll need to master some vertically-oriented skills as well, as the environments are much taller than your average platformer. You’ll be leaping across suspended platforms, climbing up through he insides of buildings, and regularly nailing ramps and springboards that send you sailing into the air. Also, there are several ways you can wall jump, depending on the direction you’re pressing when you disengage from a wall, allowing you to jump straight back, launch yourself up at an angle, or dismount in a high backflip.

Every level has 3 hidden stars, and collecting them will challenge you to use your movement skills creatively. Grabbing all 3 stars in a level opens up some cool unlockables. And Brad has even gone back into the World 1 and 2 levels and hidden stars there as well, so you’ll have an extra challenge even if you’ve already mastered those levels. Plus, you’ll get to put some of Fancy Pants Man’s new skills to use there as well.

This time around, Fancy Pants Man is able to ground tackle his enemies and use weapons, as opposed to disabling all of his enemies by jumping on their heads. Swimming has been added to his repertoire as well, and he moves just like you’d expect underwater… He propels himself along very quickly, swims easily in loops, and he can even push himself off the bottom and dash upward, flying up out of the water where he can show off some fancy backflips and dives. He can swim around to collect squiggles and even do a bit of exploration as he moves through underwater caverns. Oh, and if you’re moving fast enough when you encounter a body of water, you can actually run across the surface like a cartoon ninja.

If you’re looking for something completely new and different, there's also 2P-simultaneous play (on-couch or online), as you and a friend race toward the end of the level, help each other reach new heights, or hinder one another’s progress via dastardly interactions like kicking each other around the environment. The camera zooms out pretty far to allow players to get some distance between each other.

Each of the games in the Fancy Pants series has added more narrative, with the first game having practically no story at all, the second offering a bit, and the third offering some clear objectives and directions to Fancy Pants Man. Different characters will introduce the new challenge areas as you encounter them, and give you a bit of an explanation – or zany justification – about what you need to do to complete them.

As before, the prime directive is still “Run fast! Run fancy!”

Brad Borne got started in game development as an extension of his interest in animation (which explains the detailed animations in Fancy Pants Man), and eventually learned to develop in Flash. He has worked on several Flash-based games, the most notable being The Fancy Pants Adventure series and Mirror’s Edge 2D.

The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 1 (2006)
Looking back on it after the 2011 console release, the original game looks pretty basic. It is divided into 3 goodly-sized levels, with a boss fight at the end of the third.

While the game certainly has a unique style, it doesn’t have nearly the complexity of the games that followed. Levels designs are much more angular, with less focus on sloped surfaces and wall-jumping, and the color palette is comparatively limited.

Still, it has the basics, and wall-running upside-down over curved ledges and performing slides and backflips is still quite rewarding. In addition to the environmental challenges, a handful of enemies can be dispatched along the way by jumping on their heads. Technically, the first game had a working wall-jump, but its use was relegated to a challenge area, rather than being part of the main game.

The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2 (2008)
The second game in the series is considerably larger than the first, and the levels are much more complex. Fancy Pants Man has several new animations, giving the whole game more life and personality. There’s even a bit of a story, starting with an angry rabbit (the first game’s boss was an angry penguin) who steals Fancy Pants Man’s ice cream.

The increased use of sloped surfaces and dash moves add a bit of extra speed to the experience, and there’s a great deal more variety between levels. The game also introduces new ink-covered surfaces that are extra slippery, allowing for some ski-jump style runs and vertical wall slides. This further helps to emphasize the over-the-top nature of Fancy Pants Man’s environmental antics, and makes the experience more like playing through an extreme sports game. There are more wide-open areas in the game where you can build up speed and make some huge jumps.

Your new skills allow you to do some more advanced platforming, and you’ll be faced with challenges that force you to slide down walls, perform multiple wall-jumps, and shimmy along ropes. There are many more levels this time around, culminating in a slightly more complex boss fight against a certain lupine dessert thief.

There’s even a set of optional challenges within the levels where you can play Fancy Golfball, or snail shell golf. Basically, you find a snail tucked somewhere in the level and you jump on its back to pop its shell into the air. Then you attempt to bounce and kick the shell through the environment to the hole. This can get pretty tricky as you’re often tasked with getting the shell up through a series of platforms without letting it fall back to the ground. It forces you to take more time with each level and learn the layouts, making for what is essentially a level-long minigame.

Mirror’s Edge 2D (2009)
Mirror’s Edge 2D is a surprisingly competent version of Mirror’s Edge… not surprising in that Brad Borne developed it, but surprising that a direct-to-market 2D iteration of a major game release managed to hold true to the spirit of the original, while simultaneously nailing the execution. Seriously, there’s so much that can – and usually does – go wrong with these kinds of things… just look at practically every handheld rendition of a major franchise for proof.

It’s clear why EA chose Brad to develop this game; Faith’s movements are fast, fluid, and most importantly, highly kinetic. That is to say, the key to progressing smoothly though the levels is to ensure that she retains her momentum and reacts efficiently to environmental obstacles. The relationship to the Fancy Pants series obvious (Fancy Pants Man even has a cameo!), as Faith shares a number of the same moves, though she does retain some of her own originals, such as wall running.

But this isn’t just Fancy Pants with a new coat of paint. It is definitely a Mirror’s Edge title, with plenty of big hold-your-breath jumps, little bits of acrobatics to maintain Faith’s momentum, and plenty of cool slides and wall jumps to show off her physical prowess and savvy navigation skills. The art style is similar to the comic/anime-style cutscenes in the original game, and retains the stylish feel of the original.

It’s not a very long game, but that’s not a terrible thing when you consider that it’s played for speed, and there’s a time attack mode available as well, so there is some replay value when going back for that perfect acrobatically beautiful run. There are also a number of hidden files set about in (optional) guarded rooms, which require you to do a bit of duck-and-cover-and-sprint to make it past the armed patrols. Grab all of the files and open up a new speed run mode that lets you take on all of the guarded rooms in sequence.

As mentioned, The Fancy Pants Adventures console release was developed as a collaboration between Brad Borne and Over The Top Games, as part of Electronic Arts’ EA2D program. Madrid-based Over The Top Games is best known for their 2.5D action-adventure title NyxQuest: Kindrid Spirits on PC, Mac, and WiiWare.

2.5D can refer to a number of different presentation styles, from fixed side-view games that use 3D polygons in a 2D gameplay environment, such as the titles in the New Super Mario Bros. or Bionic Commando Rearmed series, or it can refer to games with full 3D environments where the character moves left-to-right on a track, such as the titles in the Klonoa and Tomba series.

NyxQuest falls into the former category. At first glance, the game appears to take after Kid Icarus with its ancient Greek ruins, mythological narrative (which involves a goddess searching for Icarus), and winged protagonist, but the gameplay is quite different.

You control the eponymous Nyx as she leaps from platform to platform through desert environments and ancient ruins, dodging around enemies and avoiding dangerous objects and pitfalls. As she progresses, she’ll gain new abilities that enhance her movement and combat skills.

While the developers are certainly competent in designing for the downloadable console format, the gameplay in NyxQuest is at the opposite spectrum of The Fancy Pants Adventures. Nyx moves very slowly, plodding her way through the levels as the player considers how to solve environmental puzzles to proceed. Even the use of her glide abilities must be used smartly, lest she run out of steam and crash to the ground.

This is much more of a stop-and-think game rather than a game that allows you to dash forward madly and make split-second decisions. Still, the level designs are attractive and well crafted, and the environmental challenges are well integrated into the experience, slow though they may be. There are even a few large-scale boss fights to be had.