Once again, the holiday season is upon us and it’s time to talk about a game I got as a gift. Here is one I never had any interest in beforehand. This is due partially to the interesting art style, but also because THQ is involved, which I have now come to know them as the B-movie equivalent of video games. However, they are balanced out by the developers; the (once) awesome rare. This game has some history behind it due to its timing. See, Rare was once a developer for Nintendo, making such classics as the Donkey Kong Country and Banjo-Kazooie series, until they got bought out by Microsoft, ending, for many, the “good” stage in Rare’s lifeline. But they still had an assortment of half produced games for Nintendo, one of these apparently going to be called “Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers”. With Nintendo owning the rights to Donkey Kong, that wasn’t going to happen, so Rare put in their “mascot” instead. So, he débuted on the Game Boy Advance in a puzzle game called It’s Mr. Pants.
Since I already mentioned the art style of the game, might as well start with that, and frankly… I think it sucks. I get that they chose to make it look that way, but it still sucks. The game seems like it was drawn by kindergarteners. Lines are shaky, colors pass outside the lines, things are left as stick figures and so on. Again, I get that it was meant to look like that, but it was just a terrible choice. Luckily, the blocks you HAVE to look at aren’t done in this style and have a smoother look, comparable to any puzzle game.
As for the music and sound effects, I find them equally poorly chosen. The sound effects for making blocks disappear are random animal cries. The music is too wacky and distracting while playing (though that might be the point, it’s easy to mute the system).There are also music tracks where Mr. Pants is annoyingly singing along. Now, to say something positive, I did find Mr. Pants’ voice funny to start with. However, I tired of it quickly, as you hear him read out menu items when you go on them. Plus, the voices can overlap, and if Mr. Pants is singing too, then it just becomes way too much…
Like Tetris has you making lines and Dr. Mario has you matching colors, It’s Mr. Pants game will have you making squares and rectangles. You’re given shapes of 1 to 4 units, and all you have to do is connect at least 6 units of the same color into a full rectangle or square, which will eliminate it from the screen. You are allowed to freely move the pieces on the space given and rotate them, and you’re allowed to place new colors on top of old colors, but you can’t place pieces on top of its own color. There are 3 modes of play. The first one is puzzle: you are given predetermined shapes to try to clear the board. The next one is called eliminate: the board will randomly be covered by shapes, and you’re given an unlimited amount of pieces to clear it within the time limit. And finally, there’s marathon: you start with a blank slate and are given an unlimited amount of random pieces to make as many points as possible in a time limit.
So what do I think of the game style? I really like it. It rewards creativity in that you have to really think outside the norm to make some of the shapes work (puzzle mode helps see this). This takes the classic puzzle game formula of fun colors and shapes, but gives it a slightly more intelligent twist to it.
I was surprised by how much I liked It’s Mr. Pants. The game style succeeds at being something new and creative. Puzzle mode is good for the goal oriented, while the marathon mode is perfect for those who just like going for high scores. However, the audio/visuals are unappealing, and I can’t help but wonder what it would look like as Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers. But really, the reason I think this game is flawed is because of how complicated it can get. It’s not too hard, but more so than the usual puzzle game. Now, consider the target audience here: the game has lots of bright colors, a loud character, silly sounds and a goofy looking mascot. It seems this was made for younger kids than who I think would actually appreciate the puzzle system and they would probably just be frustrated by it. It feels like a mix of Sudoku and Tetris to me, so if you like those two things and can find this fairly cheap, you might want to think twice before passing it up. I give It’s Mr. Pants for the Game Boy Advance 7.5 levels out of 10.