Sunday, 27 March 2005
Mr Pickering takes a shine to Rare's bowler-and-briefs mascot. Try not to soil yourself with excitement...
You couldnít really blame Microsoft for feeling more than a little disappointed with their purchase of Rare. That company who produced so many classic titles for Nintendo were signed up to produce titles exclusively for the Xbox for quite a hefty chunk of cash. So far, all that Microsoft have had in return for this financial outlay is a single title, namely Grabbed by the Ghoulies - a game that didnít exactly fit in with the exceptionally high standards of Rare's back catalogue (despite James's vehement protests). So itíll be obviously disheartening to all Microsoft fanboys to realise that the true design genius that the development team holds is primarily benefiting Nintendo, with various GBA titles appearing at regular intervals - the latest of which comes under the guise of Itís Mr Pants, a quirky Tetris-style puzzle game.
The title alone is bound to raise a few eyebrows among the uninformed - but the rest of us will be pleased to see that Rare's resident website mascot has finally moved up in the world and now has a game to call his own. The plump little stick man, sporting a bowler hat and clad merely in a pair of red underpants fronts the game, and his unique influence is there for all to see/hear as you play through the title.
Thankfully, involving Rare's mascot in their latest game isn't just a shoddy excuse for the use of in-game toilet humour (we can thank Conker's Bad Fur Day for that) - instead, Mr Pantís involvement simply lies in adding a touch of humour to the menu screens. As immature and inherently British as the humour is, I dare anyone to deny at least finding themselves with a hefty grin spread the width of their face after hearing the aforementioned cheeky chappy declare ďewww, smelly pants!Ē.
The game itself follows the tradition of all handheld puzzlers, offering a grid style base of play. Taking each coloured selection of little blocks as they fall from the top of the screen, you have to connect blocks of the same colour, sizing 3x2 or above in order to make them disappear from the screen. It sounds easy enough, of course, but there are strict rules that increase the difficulty level. For starters, you're unable to go over the lines of any blocks of the same colour you wish to place, meaning you cant simply create large numbers of small blocks to disappear incredibly frequently. However, you are able to go over the top of any different coloured blocks, meaning you can create two huge disappearing blocks of colour in unison if your mind is tactical enough. Don't worry - it's a lot easier than it sounds on paper.
With the bold colours of the blocks, and the obvious unique appearance of the gameís Ďheroí, praise needs to be heaped upon Rare for keeping to their strict aesthetic design ethics. The backgrounds (which are subtle enough not to distract during gameplay) appear as if drawn by a small child (similar to Nintendo's Yoshi's Island), forever adding to the 'kiddie' appearance. But make no mistake - though the visuals may appear as to exist for the purpose of enticing the younger gamer, the game has plenty of appeal for puzzle fans of all ages.
Itís Mr Pants has a somewhat traditional selection of game modes to keep your brain happy. Puzzle mode offers you the opportunity to complete a large number of unique puzzles in order to obtain Mr Pantís pictures. Wipeout mode give you a screen with a jumbled mess of coloured shapes which you need to clear in a maximum of two minutes. Last of all, Marathon mode gives you the opportunity to start fresh and keep going for as long as possible, as a crayon snake attempts to take over the screen. Succeeding in creating shapes, and the snake will retreat a certain number of steps, relevant to the size of the shape youíve just built. However, the lack of any kind of multiplayer offering is quite disappointing. Surely the addictive qualities of multiplayer puzzlers in the past have shown the possible potential of such an addition?
Thereís nothing cripplingly wrong with Itís Mr Pants - far from it. But itís basically a simple case of the sum of its parts not reaching its true potential. While the ideas may be simple in concept, and put across in both an aesthetically pleasing and entirely playable manner, itís simply cannot compare to the addictive puzzling goodness that comes from the likes of recent DS puzzlers Zoo Keeper and Polarium, nor the classic Tetris. But instead of focusing on the (few) faults to be found in It's Mr Pants, be thankful that the game was enjoyable and competent enough to prevent any pant-soilingly bad jokes throughout the course of this review. That, my friends, is something we should truly be grateful for.