For years Mr. Pants was the loveable mascot of Rare’s website and he’d make little cameos in their games (such as being seen on television in Banjo-Tooie) but he never really took the centre stage. That is, until 2005 when It’s Mr. Pants came out and he got a game all to himself!
It’s a puzzle game and now that I come to do it, I realise that it’s really hard to describe what you do in it. In each level you’re presented with an image made up of several different coloured blocks, none of which will be squares or rectangles. You are then given several blocks of your own to add to the image, and you have to fit them together with the existing blocks to create complete squares or rectangles so that they can disappear. You can’t place two blocks of the same colour on top of each other, but you can cover a block of one colour with a block of another. You win once everything has vanished.
Does that make sense? It’s quite easy to grasp once you’re playing it, if not. Believe it or not, this game becomes very, very hard and would become downright frustrating with the later puzzles were it not for one thing: Mr. Pants himself. Throughout each level Mr. Pants chimes in with supportive comments like “Super!” and “Great!” and I found him very charming. Every time you lose a level, and this will happen a lot, he’ll say “Attempt two!” when you start again and on and on until he’s saying “Attempt forty-eight!” and “Attempt one hundred and three!” and if that’s not just hilarious I don’t know what is. If it ever gets too hard, a friendly lightbulb named Helpo will chime in and tell you the correct position to place your current block. You might think that spoils the game and never use it, but you also might consider him a lifesaver and use him often! I know I did.
What’s the incentive for completing puzzles? Well, every fifth puzzle completed you’ll be rewarded with a picture of some aspect of Mr. Pants’s life. You see his son Toby and his lover Mrs. Pie and several other characters who are all presented in the childish hand-drawn art style. The images show things like Mr. Pants become a super hero or visiting outer space and I love them all. Plus, as you go further, some of the puzzles make references to characters from the Banjo-Kazooie and Conker games, which is a nice treat for Rare fans.
Ultimately, this is a very simple game; there are a few variations on the main playstyle (like a marathon mode) and all of them yield different unlockables, but while there are literally hundreds of puzzles to solve, it’s still a fairly minimalistic title. Some may find it lacking, others may consider it a nice way to pass a few minutes (I enjoyed doing one puzzle every Sunday). Whatever you feel about it, the game is full of the classic Rare charm; Mr. Pants is hilarious and loveable and the whole game has a superb, jolly soundtrack. It’s not something to sit down and enjoy for hours, but it’s a curiosity that’s definitely worth your time.
(Don’t miss today’s Finger Puppet Show!)