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"Pinky and The Brain: World Conquest" is a puzzle video game. It was first released in 1998 as a PC CD-ROM title by SouthPeak Interactive. In the United States, the game received an age guidance rating of "E" which deemed it suitable for all ages. The system requirements to run it are minimal by today's computing standards but include:
* Operating System: Windows 95, Windows 98
RAM: 32 MB
Hard Disk Drive: 65 MB Free Disk Space
Video Memory: 2 MB
Sound: 16 Bit Compatible
Optical: 4x CD-ROM
* I have tested this game to be fully operational through Windows XP Home Edition.
At the time of this game's release, the now defunct MSN Gaming Zone offered a competition whereby players could obtain a free copy from SouthPeak Interactive. I can't quite remember what was involved, but remember it was open to the first 100 or so entrants who could answer a skill testing question about the television show and submit their postal address. I was lucky enough to be in this pool of entrants and received a copy of this game. It has been in my possession ever since; only ever being replaced once due to losing the game disc.
Gameplay of this title requires the player to assume the role of either Pinky or The Brain. They are genetically enhanced lab mice who are, of course, on a never ending quest to take over the world. A series of television quality snippets are revealed to provide a story as the player progresses through the various stages of play. The game itself is not all that ingenious though its simplicity was definitely a drawing point when I was 10 years old. Each stage is presented as a maze where a certain objective must be achieved. The mazes are designed in a square grid format, and the player must guide his or her character using the keyboard in aims of covering as much of the playing area as possible. Some stages will require the player to capture a certain percentage of the maze's territory before the computer opponent does, and others will require the player to simply gain and control the highest territorial percentage for a before a set time limit expires. Generally, there are numerous power-ups and gadgets scattered throughout each stage which each unlock certain distinctions. Boxed items will equip the character with an item which can be used for actions such as building walls or seizing control of a wide grid area. Floating potions may be used for actions such as super speed or cursing the opponent's colours to match the player's colour. These items can used to the player's benefit and can award a strong competitive advantage by subduing opponents.
Prior to the game the player will select either Pinky or The Brain and a favourite colour. Sound effects are a large part of this game as each colour, along with each menu action, is accented by a certain sound effect. As the player slides up and down the palette the tones noticeably increase or decrease in pitch. Pinky or the Brain will also shout their adorning praise or discontent with certain colours. The Brain is a big fan of red and deems it to be a "strong colour" whereas Pinky responds to yellow with a hearty "yellow!" in response. After this selection is made the player can either jump into "tournament" mode which allows the selection of mazes in a series to the player's personal preference, or the "take over the world" mode which plays through the levels sequentially and covers the story aspect of the game.
I find the game boasts a high replay value. While the story mode can be completed in roughly one hour, the developers of this title included a maze builder application which can be launched independently from the game itself. This function allows users to design their own maze creations and save them to be played later through selection in the tournament mode. All aspects of the maze can be customized including the objective, background music, where walls and power-ups are placed, and where the mice start. The application is easy to use and only really requires the user to know the basic operation of a computer mouse. The grid design is plainly laid out and allows users to clearly see where walls are implemented and where power-ups will be seen in the game. The possibilities for creation are nearly unlimited and could offer players who enjoy this title many years of entertainment. I know this function alone keeps the title frequently installed and accessed on my personal computer.
The graphics of the game are presented from an isometric perspective which focuses on the centre of the maze in play. Camera angles can also be changed to a fully overhead view or a trailing view of the player's selected character. The camera can also be rotated and panned to suit a player's own viewing comfort. There does seem to be a slight element of blockiness to this game which is immediately obvious from the screenshots displayed within the installation of the program, and while the characters are immediately recognizable there's a slight disfigurement to both of their faces. The levels feature otherwise pleasing graphics with a wide variety of different tints and shades representing the different power-ups, walls and portals. The soundtrack to this title is a vast improvement over the visuals. By pressing the space bar, players can activate an assortment of voice snippets taken directly from the television series. There are not too many unique gestures but each provide a great accent to the game in play. The musical scores could be described as calming as their presence is very faint amongst the much louder sound effects, which include sudden bursts when jumping or activating a power-up, and are something which I appreciate in a puzzle game. The composers of the music seem to have went to appropriate lengths to reflect the certain level in play. For example, the "desert" themed levels sport a softer country western score.
When I first came across this title there was a reasonably vibrant multiplayer community. It did appear to be somewhat restricted to those who were awarded the game as a freebie, but the players were nonetheless present and active in the game. Easy multiplayer matchmaking for this game has since disappeared and I have yet to reconnect with players lost. Support is currently confined to telephony modem or TCP/IP connections which require users to know of each other prior to play. Before this, one could just sit in a gaming lobby on the MSN Gaming Zone and await challengers. The multiplayer aspect of this game also includes a gameplay variant called "Tag". Here, the requirement of territorial control is not present and players must capture a block of cheese while fleeing other opponents. The player who controls the block of cheese for the longest duration as per the stage's time limit is declared the winner, but can also lose control of the object when another character crashes into him or her during play.
In my eleven years of owning this title I can honestly say that it has become one of my favourite video games in existence. The visual department may be slightly lacking, but the potentially limitless ways to explore the game through the maze builder keeps this constantly fresh and fun. I would happily recommend this game to prospective buyers, and would encourage all who own this title currently to speak up and reconnect the once strong multiplayer community.