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    jp's It's Mr. Pants (GBA)

    [June 27, 2006 01:58:51 PM]
    I finally finished hard mode and unlocked the special mode... 100 more puzzle.

    Yay! Or not...I've decided that I've played enough Mr. Pants andthat I don't have the patience to complete the 100 new puzzles just to see what happens next. Don't take this wrong, I think it's a great game and I really enjoyed it!

    As I played my way through the hard puzzles I got to thinking about the help system the game has. In my opinion, this is the number one best feature of this game...even as it shows the problems inherent to this type of game.

    Many puzzle games rely on you performing a series of moves in order to achieve a solution. Often, it is necesarry that the moves you perform be done in exactly the correct order. So, you should expect to have to re-play a few puzzles as you
    try to converge on the correct solution. The problem is that sometimes you may start from an incorrect assumption (ie, I'm sure this piece should go here) and waste a lot of time backtracking and trouble shooting your solution. In other words, if you screw up at the beginning it is much harder to eventually arrive at a correct solution than if you screw up in the middle. (basically, the number of solutions available decreases dramatically closer to the end).

    So, how do you construct a system to help a player make his way through solving a puzzle without actually giving it away?

    What this game does is:
    1) If you screw up enough (4?) times, the help system is now optionally available to you.
    2) At the beginning of the puzzle, before you've made any moves at all, you can choose to "activate it".
    3) Activating the helper means that if you make a mistake placing a piece, the helper will kick in, tell you where it really goes, and then shut down. (in other words, you only get help once per puzzle attempt).
    4) If you place a piece correctly, it doesn't kick in.

    So, this help system (passively) lets you know if you are on the right track and highlights your first (and almost always most important) point of failure. This does wonders for your self-esteem in terms of reassuring you that you are on the right track! It is also passive in the sense that it will only kick in when you make a mistake and gives you help at the right moment, in the right place!


    It isn't perfect. But it is very well done. Very.

    I thought of different ways to do it, and the only thing I could come up with was having it identify more than one valid solution. There are quite a few puzzles that allow for multiple would be nice if you weren't always railroaded (by the help) into the ONE solution known by the help system. (the game doesn't care, if you meet the end condition of no pieces left on the board, you I'm referring to the help system only).

    read comments (2) read comments - add a comment Add comment
    [June 19, 2006 11:03:13 PM]
    I'm still playing this.

    For some insane reason I really want to finish puzzle mode (on hard). It's 75 puzzles and I'm half-way through.

    Why? I don't really know. I think I want to see what the super-special mode is like. It had better NOT be 150 more puzzles.

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    [June 13, 2006 02:34:04 PM]
    Yes! I finally got my first GOLD cup..for completing the marathon mode on hard.

    Man, it was REALLY hard. I failed more than a few times when I had only 2-3 seconds left...which was so close! Anyways, after winning hard, I unlocked a "super special mode"!

    Marathon mode is pretty neat. Basically, you want to create as many rectangles as you can before you run out of time. The catch is that there is a "snake" that "eats" up the playing field from outside to in (in a clock-wise direction). It also moves faster as you have less time to play. The other catch is that whenever you make a rectangle (cause pieces to disappear), the snake retreats a little. (how much depends on the size of the rectangle you make).

    The first 3 modes follow a "normal" progression. You have to deal with more colors, combinations, etc.

    The special mode is pretty cool. You only get pieces in one color! Superficially this would make it "easier", since you only have to match one color... However, it is much trickier since you can't always have to make exact rectangles (with multiple colors you take advantage of the different colors to make one piece "crop", or create a rectangle, by laying it over the "surplus" of the other color). You also run out of room a lot faster than you'd imagine. When you have multiple colors, you can lay pieces on top of each other. There is no chance of that when you only have one color!

    I'm amazed by how player strategies change by the simple removal of a variable (color of the piece) while still maintaining some pretty rich gameplay! It's almost counter-intuitive. (you'd assume that more colors means more complexity, which isn't the case necesarrilly)

    Cool game!
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    [June 9, 2006 12:45:20 PM]
    I've been playing the other modes and they are REALLY intense. I've cleared both easy and medium, but hard is...well, really hard. The two modes are basically a time-attack (clear the area before you run out of time) and a score-attack (get as many points as possible in a given amount of time).

    One of the really interesting things this game has is that on the actual start screen, there are little icons representing what you have cleared. So, in my case I have three different silver cups. (one for each mode + puzzle mode). Before I cleared time-attack on medium, I had a bronze cup.

    I'm surprised by how simple this is to implement, but how much it adds to the game. You see, usually the "start" screen is completely off-limits. (the only thing you can do is look at it and press start). In this case, the start screen changes according to my progress in the game. A nice indicator, before you even start playing, of what you've accomplished!
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    [June 6, 2006 11:21:34 PM]
    I finished the 50 medium dificulty puzzles and started, if only for a little while, on the 7 hard ones. Gasp!

    Instead of butting buttin gheads with the harder puzzles I've decided to try out some of the other modes. There is a timed-based mode where you have to score as many points as possible before...I don't know, you run out of time? (I really don't know how it ends because I had to shut down the DS before I lost). It is a completely different kind of's like a weird kind of tetris, but not really. I get a headache just trying to explain it!
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    [June 5, 2006 10:56:34 PM]
    I've completed 40 out of the 50 medium puzzles and I'm really digging this game. Ok, it really isn't THAT special, but it's a nice break with fun puzzles and a "don't take it too seriously" attitude.

    Did I mention that I really like the in-game help system? (it kicks in, optionally, once you've failed to complete a puzzle more than a few times...)
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    [June 2, 2006 02:54:32 PM]
    I first thought, because of the interesting art style, that this was one of those wacky Japanese games. It isn't. (it's by Rare) Then I thought it was based on some licensed character from a kid's show. Wrong again.

    Thanks to wikipedia, I learned that "Mr. Pants" (a stick-figure character who is naked except for a bowler hat, moustache, and large red underward) was actually a randomly doodled character who appeared on Rare's online web-surveys. Very cool!

    So, how does this character manage to get his own game? Beats me, though I'm very glad he did. It's just plain old fun!

    The game is a puzzler and I've been making my way through the different puzzles..I've cleared the 25 easy ones and I'm now chugging through the "normal" ones. (I suspect that finishing these will unlock a section of hard ones). It's pretty cool.

    The mechanics are kind of hard to describe..this game is sort of like tangrams (you have to place pieces to form squares or rectangles that are larger than 2x3) but it has some other quirks. For example, pieces come in different colors such that you can lay pieces on top of othersif their color is different. This is effectively like "overwriting" whatever was underneath. So, clearing the puzzles requires figuring out where to place your current piece to help build the appropriate rectangular shape by adding OR removing! (whenever you make a rectangle, it disappears..the objective is for you to clear the table with your last piece)

    Anyways, for now I'm exploring and enjoying...
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    jp's It's Mr. Pants (GBA)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 31 May, 2006

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 12 July, 2006

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    It's really fun..and there really is a LOT to do here. "Got bored" isn't a bad thing in this context. I definitely got my money's worth of this game.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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