Believe it or not, It's Mr. Pants is a puzzle game. The title refers to the game's namesake, a cheerful stick person dressed in men's underpants. The game itself tasks you with rotating and moving randomly generated geometric shapes in order to create rectangles of varying sizes, which are then removed from the screen and turned into points. Many players will quickly fall in love with the line-drawn artwork that's used in the menus and backgrounds, as well as the barnyard sound clips that are the game's sound effects, but, beyond those aspects, It's Mr. Pants is merely an average puzzler with a limited array of features.
A complete lack of link options means that the game is strictly a solo affair. The three main play modes are called puzzle, wipeout, and marathon, and there are various difficulty settings for each. Completing each mode on one difficulty setting unlocks the next tougher setting and lets you access the line-drawn background artwork used for that mode in the bonuses menu. Depending on which mode you pick, the rules change slightly. In the puzzle mode, you're presented with an artsy mass of bricks and have to clear it using a preset selection of pieces. There are more than 200 unique puzzles to solve. In the wipeout mode, the screen starts out jammed with a random assortment of bricks, and you have to use randomly appearing pieces to clear them out within a two-minute limit. The final play mode, marathon, puts you up against a creature known as the crayon snake and gives you five minutes to put together as many rectangles as you can from an unlimited supply of random pieces. The crayon snake is actually a constantly growing barricade that fills the screen in a counterclockwise spiral, which can be reduced, but never completely removed, by making large rectangles.
Much like in the timeless classic, Tetris, the shapes that appear in It's Mr. Pants are cubes, I shapes, and L shapes made out of bricks of various colors. The game also tosses out lowercase versions of the I and L shapes, as well as a dotlike single brick that's handy for filling tiny holes. When you put together a rectangle using like-colored bricks, the rectangle will disappear, and you'll earn points based on how large it was. The controls are relatively straightforward. You can move pieces around with the D pad, rotate them by pressing the left and right shoulder buttons, and set them in place by pressing the A button. A display on the right side of the screen shows you the next two pieces that will appear. Pieces of the same color can't be overlapped, but pieces of differing colors can. This is the game's main strategic aspect, and it's a helpful one, because it lets you bisect large masses of bricks or snip off errant bricks from an otherwise perfect rectangle.
Despite its elegant design, It's Mr. Pants doesn't have the stuff to make a dent in a genre that includes games such as Tetris, Puyo Puyo, and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. Those games have chain reactions built into their play mechanics that really lift the energy level of the whole experience, and they let you compete against your friends in link play. Conversely, the only chain reactions that happen in It's Mr. Pants occur when you split a large mass into two or more rectangles, and, again, there isn't a link mode to speak of. Some of the puzzles in the puzzle mode are genuine brainteasers, however, and it is possible to get lost for an hour or so in the other modes, since forming rectangles under time pressure isn't as easy as it sounds.
It's Mr. Pants will be best remembered for its bizarre title, its uniquely dressed namesake character, and the truly original style put into the game's background artwork and sound effects. The various shapes that appear are made up of solid-colored bricks, but the backgrounds and menus look like the sort of drawings a kindergartner would make using a pencil and some crayons. Underpants are also a common motif throughout the game. Crude renditions of men's tighty whities appear in many of the backdrops, and piles of them come together whenever a round is over. Mr. Pants himself also proudly sports a bright red pair on the title screen. As for the audio, the very British voice of Mr. Pants hums along to the theme music on the title screen and over the menus, and he yells out exclamations like "brilliant!" and "super!" whenever you pick an option or win a game. Even more bizarre, and hilarious, are the cow and chicken noises that come out of the speakers whenever you complete a rectangle in one of the games. Taken individually, any of these outlandish visual and audio nuances would seem out of place in another puzzle game. Put together as they are in It's Mr. Pants, however, they make the game seem inviting and inject a welcome dose of humor into the decidedly mundane task of rotating and making shapes.
As puzzle games go, It's Mr. Pants is moderately stimulating and good for a few hours of mental effort. Yet it lacks the complexity or added features that some of the better puzzle games on the GBA have, so perhaps it's best suited to novices. No matter what, the game's crayon-inspired art style, barnyard sound effects, and inexplicable fixation on underpants make it both likable and unforgettable.