Title: Flaklypa (Pinchcliffe) Grand Prix
Developer: CapricornuS AS
Here's an oddity. During a recent trip to Norway, I picked up a copy of Flaklypa (Pinchcliffe) Grand Prix. Since I can neither read nor speak Norwegian, my expectations were based on pictures on the box that suggested I was buying a puzzle game. Little did I realize that I was buying a piece of one of the biggest media success stories in Norway.
Pinchcliffe Grand Prix began life as a film, originally released in 1975. It became the most successful film in Norwegian history. Created by master puppeteer and animator Ivo Caprino, Pinchcliffe Grand Prix tells, in animated puppet form, the story of a great race featuring a supercar called Il Tempo Gigante (the Big Time).
The game version of this classic family film, produced by Ivo's son Remo, was released in 2001 and rapidly matched the success of the original film by becoming the most successful computer game in Norwegian history. And, after playing it, I can see why. It's a delight.
Here's what you need to know about Pinchcliffe as a place: "Thirty-seven miles to the North, a little to the East and the merest tilt upwards lies Pinchcliffe, a small hill village under the azure sky - a self-sufficient community, with both steam-driven cheese factory, camping site, a local paper and its own TV station. Open to all the winds that blow, a long, long way up, just where the sun rises above Lonetree Hill is the home of bicycle repairer Theodore Rimspoke and his two assistants."
"Thirty-seven miles to the North, a little to the East and the merest tilt upwards...Open to all the winds that blow, a long, long way up, just where the sun rises above Lonetree Hill..."
Lest this all seem a bit too saccharine, the characters who inhabit Pinchcliffe, namely Rimspoke's assistants, Sonny Duckworth and Lambert, are respectively a wiseacre and a pessimist. There is also an earthiness in Pinchcliffe. When's the last time you played a game where a transition from one scene to another was based on answering nature's call? When Lambert the hedgehog announces he needs to "spend a penny" and hurries into the garden to relieve himself, the moment is both startling and completely natural. If only my dog could be so articulate.
Pinchcliffe, as a game, feels like a wonderfully overstuffed toy box. There are puzzles and activities in each scene. And the marvelously animated characters have lots to say to each other and lots to do. The animation of the characters is superb. Pinchcliffe feels less like a computer game than an interactive DVD of the original film. (There is also the Factopedia which offers interesting details about objects and events in each scene. Unfortunately, the Factopedia, unlike the dialogue, is only available in Norwegian. The dialogue is available in subtitled form in English, Swedish and Danish.)
The goal of game is to collect the parts needed to build Il Tempo Gigante. Once built, the finale of the game is a race. The race is run from an overhead perspective with control of Il Tempo Gigante provided through cursor keys. For serious racers, the finale is something of a letdown. Pinchcliffe Grand Prix is no Grand Prix Legends. It hardly matters. Once one has made it through to the end, the entire game is available through a menu system that offers access to all scenes, puzzles and activities. Getting through once is just the beginning.
Many of the puzzles are timed (match the socks, sort the mail, build the pipeline, etc.) and a replay or two can yield a higher score and more parts for Il Tempo Gigante. And the opportunity to listen again to the gently lulling musical score of Bent Fabricius Bjerre. Older gamers may recognize the name Bent Fabric, best known for the 1960s hit Alley Cat. Same guy.
According to the website, there are plans for an international release of Pinchcliffe Grand Prix. I look forward to it, if only to find out just what Pinchcliffe "facts" lurk in the Factopedia.