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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Preview: GripShift & Frantix (PSP)


By Michael Palisano

Taking a different approach from the strategy titles the company is known for, Sony Online Entertainment is set to launch a pair of unique titles for the PSP in entirely new genres. The first is called GripShift, which offers an interesting mix of racing and puzzle solving with huge aerial jumps in massive air-borne courses. The other title in the mix is Frantix, a unique character-based puzzle title that should keep owners of the portable busy with addictive play and clever game mechanics. Join us as we examine these upcoming titles and find out why SOE is going to mean more than swords & sorcery this year.


GripShift is a hyperactive racing title developed by Sidhe Interactive and published by SOE that's set to take players on a wild ride through expansive and somewhat twisted level designs with kinetic action, several innovative gameplay modes and multiplayer action. The courses are huge with loops, massive jumps, short cuts different paths and more to explore. There will be plenty of depth in the game with more than 100 different levels in four main themes, such as horror, that should keep players challenged for a long time. The courses designs will play an important role in the gameplay, since you're racing against the clock. While some of the game's design is accessible, that doesn't mean it will be easy. However, the game's approach means it will go beyond standard approach seen in other racers, offering more variety than you'd expect it to. There will be multiple modes of play for both solo play and multi-player action with standard modes mixed with more creative areas to create a lot of variety and depth for gamers. There will be standard point-to-point racing, as well as timed modes where the object is to find the fastest way to the finish line, which doesn't always mean a straight line.

You probably won't be able to find these the first time around, but should be able to find thew fastest route through trial and error. You can also use the numerous short cuts or glide over some areas to get to the finish faster. Players will also find a number of power-ups scattered throughout the game's levels. In addition, GripShift's sophisticated aerial physics engine looks quite advanced and should be the most impressive part of the gameplay. This system will allow for massive jumps over the courses. What's really impressive about this is that players can also steer their vehicle while they're in the air. Each level will also have a number of time consuming traps and objects, and players will also lose time if they fall of the edges of the track and have to restart the race from that point. Gripshift's control system seems like it will be easy to understand and master, allowing players to control their vehicles intuitively and concentrate on the racing itself.

Players will be able to choose from one of six different characters, each with their own unique personality and vehicle types. In addition to a robust single player experience, players will be able to battle it out with up to four friends online. Players will also be able to create their own courses using the track editor feature and share them with others online. In addition to these standard modes, GripShift will include several Bonus games including Penguin Bowling, Bomb Pool, Soccer Crazy, Snaker and Ice Hockey which can be played solo or online. From a visual standpoint, GripShift will take full advantage of the PSP's capabilities with sophisticated environments featuring light-sourcing, smooth animation in four main themed worlds. In closing, GripShift's unique blend of stunt-racing, platforming and puzzle elements should make it one of the more unique PSP titles on the market when it's released later this year. Add in smooth controls, beautifully designed race-tracks and killer multiplayer action, and this definitely looks like one to look out for.

Release Date: Fall 2005 
Developer: Sidhe Interactive 
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment 
Price: $39.99


There have already been several excellent puzzle titles on the PSP, with Lumines and Mercury coming immediately to mind, but Frantix looks to be another solid addition to the portable's library. Developed by Killer Games, Frantix isn't an abstract puzzler, and instead features a 3D approach and a character based system where you control a unique player as they try to master the puzzles on a series of surreal worlds. The game is set to offer fast-paced play through more than 150 different levels. In each level, the object is to solve the puzzles in the shortest amount of time. However, the most obvious path isn't always the easiest, since these environments are filled with obstacles, dangerous creatures, hazards and deadly traps. Finding ways to avoid these areas is going to be the biggest challenge in Frantix. During each level, players will be able to find a number of power-ups and upgrades to help their character along including speed boosts and invincibility. 

In addition, players will find a number of colored gems which they can use to unlock additional areas. Obviously, the game will benefit from the PSP's rendering abilities with beautifully designed, yet surreal and disorienting worlds to explore. The game's clever level designs and stucture will present a number of challenges including moveable objects, complicated walls and toll booths that will try and halt your progress. Your character will also need to avoid some of the deadly traps on each level such as lava and quick sand that will spell an immediate end for your character and the game. While the environments themselves will pose quite a challenge, players will have to watch out for the many devious creatures, since coming into contact with them will also cause them to suffer an immediate death.

Frantix will include a number of gameplay modes for both single and multiplayer action, where you can compete to finish the puzzles fastest, go up against a friend, or try levels again to beat your best rime. Players can also unlock new world themes, extra levels and other bonus items as they play through the game. Judging by our time with the game, this looks to be an addictive title, with straightforward pick up and play mechanics that make Frantix immediately accessible, yet difficult to truly master. The game's polished visuals and great animation will definitely give it a unique feel that should differentiate it from the other puzzle titles on the market. Frantix looks like a solid addition to any PSP owner's library, with all the elements present that should make it an addictive and challenging title.

Release Date: Fall 2005 
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Developer: Killer Game 
Publisher: Sony Online Entertainment 
Price: $39.99


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