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PC Game Review: Pinchcliffe Grand Prix - The PC Game

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Copied from https://alyxxgameroom.blogspot.no/2018/05/pc-game-review-pinchcliffe-grand-prix.html




GAME: Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (Flåklypa Grand Prix)

DEVELOPER: Capricornus Computer Game Productions AS

PUBLISHER: Caprino Video Games AS

RELEASED: 1999 (Original), 2003 (Gold Edition)

AVAILABILITY: PC (no longer sold or supported)


It's probably kind of difficult to bring up the subject of "The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix" to most non-Norwegians as the movie is kind of a Norwegian phenomenon and isn't that well known outside of our borders, but to most Norwegians, the movie is a national treasure on par with cheese slicers and lutefisk. Originally released in 1975, directed by the famous animator Ivo Caprino, and based on a popular series of comic strips, books and other published material by Kjell Aukrust, "The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix" takes place in the titular town of Pinchcliffe named after a mountain upon which our three main characters live. Theodore Rimspoke is a bicycle repairman and hobby inventor living with his friends Lambert, a shy and quiet porcupine suffering from crippling anxiety, and Sonny Duckworth, a magpie who is the polar opposite of Lambert, an extroverted daredevil who gets things done but also tends to get himself into trouble. One day they spot one of Theodore's old apprentices, Rudolph Gore-Slimey on TV boasting about his new invention that will revolutionize motorsports. Failing to mention that the invention actually came from Theodore, having stolen it from him while working at his garage. Sonny encourages Theodore to challenge Rudolph to a race with his own self built car, the Il Tempo Gigante, going head to head with Rudolph's Boomerang Rapido in a legendary race. With the help of an Arabian oil sheik funding his project, Theodore sets off to build his dream car and the rest is history. The movie is considered a landmark animated movie in Norway, featuring entirely stop motion animation, and at times using rear projection to attain really convincing effects. It was a technical marvel of a movie at the time and directors such as George Lucas paid close attention to it, using the race as inspiration for the pod race in Star Wars Episode 1 among other things (which, let's be fair, was the best part of that movie). The movie has remained popular in Norway to this day and is annually broadcast on TV on December 23rd (the day before Norwegian Christmas eve). So around 1998, Ivo Caprino's son Mario took the responsobility of getting a team together to make a PC game based on the movie. And that's the game I will be looking at today.


As a warning, a lot of the screenshots are of the Norwegian edition of the game and while I have enabled English subtitles, a lot of text will be in Norwegian.



One of the game's scenes. Each scene starts with a brief cutscene before you can go wild with the mouse cursor.


It's hard to really put the Pinchcliffe game into any set genre but the easiest way to describe is that it's a point-and-click activity center game, though it still has a plot and goal to it so it's also not just an activity center. The main game consists of various scenes based on the movie where you can interact with certain things in the scene, and the main goal of the game is to gather parts for the Il Tempo Gigante race car so that you can build it yourself and race Rudolph in a racing game (more on that later). Stuff you click on will reveal different things based on what icon is displayed when you hover your mouse over it.

An encyclopaedia icon will reveal a factoid when you click on something, often related to what you are clicking on (clicking on a bowl of fruit for instance will reveal some facts about fruit). A lot of these are fun to read and add a bit of an edutainment aspect to the game since they're not really in your face and it's entirely optional to read them. However discovering all of the factoids in a scene will net you a reward of a car part so the game does reward reading up on stuff.

A marionette icon will play an animation, and often clicking multiple times on the same spot will actually play different animations each time, showing a rather impressive attention to detail and it makes the game a lot of fun to replay in case you've missed some animations you've never seen before and such.

A dice icon will launch one of the game's multiple minigames. Most of these are based on classic arcade games and are fun to pick up and play, but can get really difficult on higher difficulties (more on these later).

A checkboard icon will launch an activity. Activities are a little different from the minigames in that most of them don't really have set goals but can be more just simple timewasters such as jigsaw puzzles and playing chess or colouring pictures.

When you are done in a scene you can right click to bring up the navigation panel to either move to the next scene, go to the previous one, bring up the Help menu or head back to the main menu.



The apple harvest is one of the minigames in Pinchcliffe and can get pretty hectic on higher levels.


One thing I wanna mention that I find hilarious, is that the game proudly states its lack of violence on the box, and to me this feels really redundant. I mean, I don't think there's any Norwegian who doesn't know the movie and as much as I admire that the game makes it clear it's a family friendly affair, it's kind of like placing a "for girls" sticker on a Barbie game. For anyone who's seen the movie, it would be kind of out of place expecting the game to be something like a first person shooter. I mean, as interesting as it would be seeing Sonny grab a tommy gun and blast the hell out of Rudolph, the likelyhood of this happening is really microscopic since the movie doesn't really have any violence in it. I think the closest the game comes to any violence is the treatment Sonny receives when sneaking into the sheik's tent, but even that is so cartoony and slapsticky that it's not even worth mentioning.


As previously mentioned the minigames make up a big chunk of the gaming experience in Pinchcliffe as you will be spending a lot of time playing these to earn car parts for Il Tempo Gigante. Pretty much all of these minigames feel really arcady and the game also has leaderboards built in to keep track of high scores so competing with friends and family is a real thing in this game.


There's a mail sorting minigame where you have to sort letters from all over the world and place them into respective bags. It gets pretty hectic but throws enough variation into the mix to make it possible to develop a strategy and get really good at the game.


A variation on Snake is included where you guide a caterpillar around the side of a tree, munching on ants and mushrooms (just make sure you don't eat the poisonous ones) and growing bigger. Once the score limit has been reach you advance higher up the tree. There is a time limit though so make sure you get enough points in time.

The sock closet game is a variation on memory where you have to match pairs of socks. The apple harvest (screenshot above) is based on Oil Panic and you have to catch falling apples and deposit them in Lambert's basket so he can make some delicious apple pies with them. The more apple pies you make, the more apples come falling down (I guess the smell of that apple pie really makes them wanna grow faster).


There's a Simon Says esque game where Lambert has to mimic Solan's steps in a Hopscotch game, obviously inspired by a small adorable scene in the movie where Lambert (who really looks up to Sonny) is trying to mimic his Hopscotch skills and fails miserably.

The sound machine is another memory type game where instead of matching socks you match sounds by pressing buttons on the machine Sonny is using in the beginning of the movie. This used to annoy the crap out of our parents when I was a kid and of course, we all loved playing it. The amount of sounds and how similar they are to each other gets bigger and bigger the longer you play. Apparently if you get far enough you can complete some kind of invention that will shoot a piggy bank though I've never actually managed to break the piggy bank in this game.


The word game is a simple typing game where you type words that fall down the screen before they reach the bottom. Balloon Hunt is a game where Sonny gets a gyrocopter and flies around the town gathering balloons. It's a fun flying game that reminds me a little of Pilotwings or the training stage from Star Fox and uses some simple 3D graphics (which is kind of jarring as the rest of the game is in 2D). There's a game where you feed maggots to birds (watch out for the squirrel though, apparently feeding him maggots is not okay).

Lambert's Maze is a Pacman style game where you travel around a maze gathering wooden sticks, berries, mushrooms and honey combs while avoiding bees (NO, NOT THE BEES)... ...(I am not sorry).


Theodore's Repair shop is a game where you repair bikes by scrapping bad parts and replacing them with new ones. Very simple but like the mail sorting game gets really intense on higher levels since you not only have to manage the bikes but also the new parts that are constantly delivered and have to be put on the shelves or the bikes.

Sonny also has a sidescrolling racing game where you control him as he goes down Pinchcliffe, gathering coins and avoiding hazards on the way. The higher the difficulty, the more hazards you will encounter but your score multiplier is also higher so it's a risk vs reward thing.

There's a Pipe Dreams kind of game where you connect oil pipes, a game where you collect butterflies (avoid the insects) and also a game where Emanuel Desperados, the sheik's pet monkey, challenges you to a game of cups.



Hmm... don't remember that from the movie :P


What really strikes me about these minigames is that while they're all not particurarily original they all feel inspired by the movie and its characters and story elements and thus all feel like they make sense. They're also really well made and provide plenty of challenge for adults as well as a really generous learning curve for younger players. In all of the games you earn medals based on your performance where a Platinum medal is the best possible result. You don't necessarily have to be great at the minigames to earn car parts though as even a silver medal will net you a reward and in most of the scenes there's a hidden Retometic Distributor (the invention that Rudolph stole) and finding these will net you an instant reward of a car part. This means that you can approach gathering car parts in a lot of different ways and the game offers plenty of different challenges so if you're not good at one thing, chances are high you'll still eventually gather all the car parts to complete the car.


Speaking of, it might be time to discuss the final game, the racing game. You don't really need all the parts for the car to play this as you only need level 1 of the car finished to be able to race (which doesn't make much sense but makes it easier for you to get into the racing game early on). However continuing to upgrade your car and finishing it makes it faster for each level of completion and thus raising your chances in the races. The racing game can be accessed from the main menu by clicking on the racing flag icon and from here you can access any tracks you've earned in the game and any additional cars you earn. The iconic "dirty tricks" button from the movie is here and with this mode turned on, the game will spawn powerups you can pick up to mess up the race for other players or give yourself an advantage. As far as racing games go, it's more akin to something like RC Pro AM or Death Rally as it is a top down racer instead of a 3D racer. It's still a fun little minigame to play, especially with friends and the AI is fairly competent.



The car builder is where you assemble the iconic car from the movie and level up your car.


The game is also full of various activites to do if you want a break from the main game or just want something to sink some time into. You don't really see these kind of activity center games anymore, mostly because a lot of these activities can probably be done with apps and other programs these days. But they still have a lot of charm to them and are worth dabbling into, if anything for just the variation they provide.


The character gallery provide some information on the various characters in the game and movie's universe, there's a game where you put flowers in a vase and can print these flowers (I'm not quite sure who this would appeal to, or what it's based on but... it's there), there's a music activity where you can compose pieces of music or just play existing pieces of music using a simple single-instrument keyboard. It's a little simple but it works nicely as a way to teach music to children (once again kind of adding that edutainment aspect to the game). There's also a drawing activity where you can draw your own things or colour existing drawings and print them (based on scenes and characters from the game). There's also a jigsaw puzzle, Mah-Jongg, Checkers, a puzzle game where you have to eliminate gems from Solina's gem box, a slide puzzle (I HATE this game cause I suck at slide puzzles), Chess (which actually has a really good AI that loves to fuck with you), a movie projector where you can actually watch unlockable clips from the movie as well as clips that at the point of this game's release had never been seen before, and an activity center where you can make simple presentations and birthday cards and other nice things. It feels like a little oudated concept nowadays for most of these things, but like I said, they have plenty of charm to them.


The Gold edition of the game also adds some new content to the game in the form of a quiz where you have to test how familiar you are with the game by matching sounds to scenes and facts to scenes and such, a number machine where you solve mathematic problems (again kind of an edutainment aspect) and a word machine where you have to solve anagrams. The most notable and, kind of gimmicky addition to the Gold edition is the addition of 3D content. The game comes with some fancy 3D glasses and these can be used to view special 3D scenes as well as new 3D pictures and 3D jigsaw puzzles (which I don't see the point of to be honest but it's a nice addition to have more puzzles to do).



The attention to detail in the scenes, character models and textures is amazing, each scene painstakingly recreating the environments from the movie.


Graphically this game is amazing and the production value shines through in everything. While not using any kind of real time 3D, the game uses mostly pre-rendered static scenes and animations. This means that they could put in a staggering amount of detail on their 3D models without requiring any kind of 3D acceleration to run the game. A good example is the fur on Lambert's body which for the time looks on par with something you'd see in a Pixar movie. The animation is done by hand which means that it at times doesn't look that great compared to newer movies and games done with CGI, but all in all it has held up surprisingly well. The game's pace is a bit slow and might be a bit boring to some kids who just wanna jump into some games, though you can skip all of the animations and cutscenes in the game and once you have discovered an activity or minigame in the scenes, you can access it from the main menu without even having to go into the main game which to me is a brilliant thing.


As you can probably tell from the screenshots the attention to detail in this game is definitely on par with what you'd see in the movie and it's still a gorgeous game to look at. The kind of retro mix of a typical Norwegian mountain town with all of its gorgeous nature mixed with the kind of DYI home made look of Theodore's inventions and technology sets the tone for the game's visuals and it's still a really charming style to look at. The main menu looks a bit like a dashboard from the car with a 9-volt battery in the bottom corner and lights and switches all over the place. It's just an aesthetic that has so much soul to it.



The game's most violent scene. BEWARE! Sonny getting turned into a football. :P


On the audio side I can only really speak for the Norwegian version of the game. It's amazing that they actually got the original voice cast to redo their lines for their roles, with the exception of cast members who had passed away before the game's release where they either used an impersonator (who does a really good job mind you) or archive voices from the movie. That being said I am not 100% happy with the cast's new deliveries. You can definitely tell that they're much older and lacking a lot of the energy they had while dubbing the original movie. The most jarring example being Sonny who just kinda lacks the energy his character is supposed to have. The new music added to the game is also a bit bland and doesn't really feel like it matches the style of the original soundtrack (lots of generic orchestral style music that feels a bit out of place). Some of the rearrangements work though, but feel a bit lacking.


One last thing I also wanna discuss is the game's copy protection. This game has never been re-released on any kind of digital storefront like Steam or GOG, and the ONLY way to play it is either by pirating it or somehow getting your hands on a physical copy. The game ships with the CD-Cops and DVD-Cops copy protection which physically scans the disc when the game is inserted and if the disc is wrong or not inserted, the game will not launch. It matches the disc to a unique serial number printed on the game's manual, and without this serial number you're screwed. This copy protection is also notoriously difficult to crack. And I have numerous issues with this kind of copy protection being used on a game.


For one, it means that if you lose the game disc or something happens to it, you're screwed. You can no longer play the game you paid for. It also means that you cannot make backup copies of the game since they most likely won't work. It feels like a really hostile way to treat your consumer, and I honestly feel like the game treats me like a potential criminal. On one hand, this kind of makes sense given the huge personal investment the Caprino family put into this game, and this is a really efficient way of ensuring profit. But to me it's inexcusable that they to this day haven't released this game digitally. Sure, there was a DS remake released in 2010 but this game is very different from the original PC game in a lot of ways, and there are iOS versions of some of the minigames from the game but only 4 of them. As of today, the game is no longer being sold or supported at their website and thus obtaining the game means you have to buy it used and prices are NOT dropping for this game as its rarity increases and it remains highly sought after due to its cult status in Norway.


Despite this, the game remains one of the biggest success in Norway and has sold over 500,000 copies in total (which on a Norwegian scale is a massive success). It received rave reviews from every publication on release, though despite this, Caprino never made any more games based on their movie IP's and instead focused on continuing support for the game up until 2010. The game will work fine on Windows 7 but will not work on Windows 8 or 10. It also requires that you run the game in 16bit colour mode so it sadly has a lot of compatability issues with modern OS's. So if you do decide to track down this game, just be aware of this.



Nothing about this game is dang'rous :P


All in all, Pinchcliffe Grand Prix the PC Game is an amazing experience and remains incredibly faithful to the movie. It's one of the rare instances where the game was developed with the same level of care and attention to detail as the movie, by people who worked on the movie itself. And it's sad to see the game no longer being sold or receiving support because in my opinion, the game remains as much of a national treasure as the movie is and I really hope it will be re-released digitally for modern OS's at some point but it seems Caprino has no plans for this when I asked them about it. Oh well, with a 3D remake of the game on the horizon coming to Steam and Switch, it at least seems we haven't seen the last of our pals at Pinchcliffe...


STORY: 9/10



SOUND: 8/10



Game developments at http://nukedprotons.blogspot.com

Check out my music at http://technomancer.bandcamp.com

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