Hello. I am British, and as such am contractually obliged to not celebrate the 4th of July. That doesn't mean I don't like fireworks, though.
Brits tend to let off their fireworks on November 5 in commemoration of the time Guy Fawkes tried to blow up King James I and part of the English parliament. That sort of thing tends to get you locked up these days, but for some reason, we like to celebrate that particular failed terrorist attack with pretty things that go boom in the sky.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to attend a 4th of July fireworks display this evening -- or perhaps you're a Brit like me who just can't wait until November 5 -- never fear, for I have you covered with five games that make a suitably adequate replacement for standing outside going "ooh" and "aah" and wondering when it's acceptable to go and purchase your second burger and/or hot dog of the evening. (The answer is "always." It is always acceptable.)
Let's jump right in and release the pretty lights. As always, this isn't intended to be an exhaustive, prescriptive list; if you happen to have a strong opinion on games that look like fireworks displays, be sure to share 'em.
FantaVision was one of the first ever PS2 games, and had its origins in those tech demos that did the rounds while the PS1 was still the dominant platform. You remember the ones, surely -- the ones where they recreated the ballroom scene from Final Fantasy VIII, supposedly in real time, and the one where all the fireworks went off and it looked rather pretty. Tech demos have come a long way since.
FantaVision is, quite simply, a game where you set off fireworks. Rather than just making them go "pop" as you see fit, however, the game's core mechanic is somewhat puzzly in nature. Controlling a guideline that emanates from the on-screen cursor, you "capture" fireworks that are flying up into the sky in an attempt to string together three or more of the same color, then detonate them all at once.
Various other mechanics came into play as you progressed, including the ability to set up chain reactions and collect a "Starmine," which triggers a frantic bonus mode.
FantaVision originally launched in Japan in March of 2000, but was enhanced with a two-player versus mode for its North American and European release. FantaVision's two-player mode was surprisingly fun and competitive, and marked one of the first appearances of a hilariously infuriating and/or satisfying mechanic whereby you could "steal" part of your opponent's play area, giving them significantly less space to work with. Anyone who has ever played Lumines in versus mode will doubtless be familiar with how this mechanic can destroy friendships.
Boom Boom Rocket (Xbox 360)
Boom Boom Rocket is the red-headed stepchild of Project Gotham/Geometry Wars developer Bizarre Creations' lineup, but it's a great game in its own right.
As the game camera gently pans across a stylized, neon cityscape, fireworks with buttons and colors marked on them launch into the sky towards a guideline at the top of the screen. By pressing the buttons at the right time, as the fireworks cross the line, you score points and build up a bonus meter. Miss them and you'll bring yourself closer to failure.
The twist on this simple formula was the fact that Boom Boom Rocket was also a rhythm-action game: the fireworks flowed up the screen in time with the various pieces of music in the game, all of which were astonishingly brilliant and rather unconventional remixes of classical tracks such as Grieg's In The Hall of the Mountain King and Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. This is very much a game to play in the dark with the sound turned up -- if everyone else is outside watching the fireworks, they probably won't mind you blasting out some thumping bass.
I lost a surprising amount of my life to Boom Boom Rocket when it first came out, and it's a game I still fire up occasionally today just to enjoy the creative classical remixes. It's simple but fun -- and it looks rather nice, too.
Fireworks (PlayStation Vita)
Wondering what you're supposed to do with those weird Augmented Reality cards you got with your Vita? Well, download Fireworks for free from the PSN store and you'll have one thing to do with them.
Fireworks is a fairly simplistic game that sees you detonating fireworks by touching them as they proceed up the screen. Pressing them at exactly the right time, when a "guide" marker appears on them, scores you more points. Missing them penalizes you.
There are several ways to play Fireworks, all of which use augmented reality to a varying degree. In the standard play mode, you lay one or more of the Vita's AR cards on the table, with the exact cards used determining the game's difficulty. You then have to survive as long as possible -- missing fireworks costs you a life.
Infinite mode is similar to the standard mode, only it will require you to turn your Vita more frequently rather than stay pointed at the AR card. Challenge Mode, meanwhile, tasks you with completing specific missions such as only detonating fireworks of a particular color, forming chains by sliding your finger between the fireworks, or avoiding a specific color.
Fireworks is a fairly simplistic game, but it's a good demonstration of the Vita's graphic and AR capabilities, and surprisingly addictive in its own right -- particularly with the addition of online leaderboards.
Geometry Wars 2 (Xbox 360)
The original Geometry Wars was the game that convinced me to buy an Xbox 360 in the first place. This was back in the days when the interface was called Blades, and getting ads shoved in your face every time you turned the damn thing on was something we hadn't even contemplated.
It was its sequel that truly captured my attention for a significant period of time, however. The six different game modes, the game's masterful use of online leaderboards and the fact it was simply a beautifully-designed game meant that I played this game to the exclusion of all others for quite a while. Topping my friend leaderboard became a matter of honor, of duty, and the game's addictive nature kept me staring at that screen for hours at a time.
I've since broken the habit, but Geometry Wars is still a fantastic game. Originating as a hidden retro-style minigame in the Project Gotham series, it really came into its own when Retro Evolved HD-ified the base game and, yes, made it look like a fireworks display. Geometry Wars 2 further polished these visuals into a game with a very distinctive look that still looks absolutely gorgeous today.
If you've never experienced the joy of Geometry Wars 2, I recommend you go download it from Xbox Live Arcade right now, but I make no apologies for the fact you will almost definitely get nothing done for the rest of the day.
If you are the sort of person who is averse to paying for things and don't own a Vita (probably because you are averse to the idea of paying for it) then you may be interested in Binary Zoo's free PC game Echoes, which was subsequently followed by an Xbox Live Indie Games "Plus" release with additional features.
Binary Zoo describes Echoes as a modern take on Asteroids, but with its twin-stick controls and colorful, firework-esque visuals it's rather more similar to Geometry Wars than anything else. That said, it is a distinct offering from Bizarre Creations' title in numerous ways.
Rather than most enemies expiring with a single shot as in Geometry Wars, many of the floating vector-graphic asteroids in Echoes take multiple shots to destroy, and larger ones will usually burst into several smaller ones. However, to counteract these tougher enemies, you're tougher, too; rather than blowing up the second you clip an enemy as in Geometry Wars, your ship has a shield that protects it from several impacts, represented by an ever-decreasing circle that surrounds it. Run out of shield and it's game over -- you only get one life here, but you can replenish the shield through powerups.
Echoes starts fairly sedately but gradually ratchets up the intensity to such a degree that even Geometry Wars veterans will find their reflexes challenged. Also, did I mention it's free?
Happy 4th of July, everybody. The rest of the team will be back to entertain you tomorrow.