"It's Mr. Pants, a garish cacophony of destructive glee, trashed my lingering Tetris habit with love, weirdness and dented trophies. Imperfection, too, from the scribbled backgrounds to the game strategies. The Cockney kibitzing of Mr. Pants, an egg-chested fellow with stick limbs and red underpants bigger than his head, combines with several trombone-folly tunes for an upbeat yet relaxed experience. "
It's Mr. Pants, a garish cacophony of destructive glee, trashed my lingering Tetris habit with love, weirdness and dented trophies. Imperfection, too, from the scribbled backgrounds to the game strategies. The Cockney kibitzing of Mr. Pants, an egg-chested fellow with stick limbs and red underpants bigger than his head, combines with several trombone-folly tunes for an upbeat yet relaxed experience.
Simple rules help, also. You drop tiles of up to four blocks in the 13x13 playfield, and any monochrome rectangle above 2x3 vanishes with a barnyard noise. You can see the next two blocks to drop, and with no annoying T and S shapes, there's less wait for a good piece. But with up to four colors, you will need several rectangle projects at once, and maybe even somewhere to junk the bad pieces. You'll have time, since the pause feature only dims the board.
Pausing's almost necessary for the tougher levels of Wipeout Mode, where you must clear a crazy quilt of colors from board in two minutes. Instead of waiting too long for the right piece as in most block-drop games, you'll need to create a rectangle with, say, one square sticking out, then paint over that square with a different colored piece. Clearing a color from the board eliminates future blocks of that color, though that still doesn't always prevent bad pieces near the end from adding ten seconds to that new record time you deserve.
Another sub-game, Marathon Mode, emphasizes survival. Each rectangle you create retracts an eraser snake, which spirals to the center of the board. Lasting five minutes unlocks another level, but a high score list encourages you to try for bigger squares, several rectangles at once, or both. The best shape to create varies with the number of colors, and a monochrome special level jumbles the usual strategies. You can even leave shapes for the snake to chop into small rectangles while you build a big one. Luck may let the snake ruin things before a piece to start your combo appears, but once you've got an overall strategy, it only takes a minute to retry.
IMP's centerpiece, though, is Puzzle Mode. It features 250 four-color block pictures, ranging from a kangaroo to a bulldozer, to wipe from the board with a set sequence of pieces. Often you won't get blue pieces to build on a blue chunk, or your thirteen tiles' worth of yellows won't make a rectangle. Overlapping the right squares in the right order is critical, and some missteps leave you the wrong L piece at the end. Overcome this, and every five levels, you get a new portrait in your gallery, which shows Mr. Pants playing basketball, wearing a superhero cape, or exploring space. While some levels are too symmetrical, and the two blocks you can see ahead aren't often enough the first time around, no two levels or solutions seemed duplicated.
And people who MUST see the next level may, after a few failures, call Helpo, a light bulb who squeaks encouragement until you misplace a piece. Then, he places a block where it should go and vanishes. For all his brilliance, he counts the other move in symmetric levels as wrong, and his voice gets annoying, but maybe that's the game slyly telling you to solve things yourself. Besides, you can annoy the game back. Mr. Pants's groans try to blackmail you out of strategically pausing or restarting a level. Futz too long with the menu items, and Mr. Pants interrupts his dum-de-doos to whine "My brain hurts!"
Other sounds include a barnyard racket for rectangle combos, or the ticking clock and French horns that quicken throughout Wipeout Mode. Mr. Pants calls out Puzzle Mode's level numbers and difficulty: eas-zay, meed-yum, haa-urd and spay-shul, and in-game tunes range from upbeat brass to an ice cream truck jingle. Graphics keep IMP's audacity fresh, too: win a level, and y-fronts, flowers or cows swarm the board's slightly crooked gridlines. Nameless scrawled animals pop up in the portraits you win, and odd names like Huw populate the high score list.
IMP's chaos does unravel slightly in the sub-game Puzzle Mode unlocks. Max the Mouse has you create rectangles of different sizes, and at the end, you must make one covering the whole board. Unfortunately, your last piece may be three squares with a two-square hole left. That's my biggest gripe, though I do wish I'd gotten another junk trophy for the three Puzzle Mode pictures I solved with a move to spare. Also, IMP cries out for a level creator.
Still, these shortcomings can't keep IMP, with its helter-skelter graphics and raucously unsentimental host, from soaring beyond just an accessible, well thought out puzzler. It's a confidently disordered party much like building with Legos and destroying them until you've had enough, and the puzzles and effects moderate their craziness. I'm hoping for a sequel, for my own good. You see, I've slipped into the occasional SuDoKu, and Mr. Pants could help my time management by ruining it--long-term. Short-term, I'd have a game to play, of course.
Community review by aschultz (July 29, 2009)
Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.
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