Look, we know everyone has already collected all the Pinchcliffe Grand Prix memorabilia there is to collect. We're sure that as you read this you’re sitting there in your Pinchcliffe Grand Prix pyjamas and shaking with fear at the prospect of buying another piece of Pinchcliffe merchandise, because your partner has threatened to throw you out if you dare add any more objects to the seven rooms of Pinchcliffe tat you’ve already filled to bursting. Worry not, though, because at least this one’s available digitally, meaning you can add to your brimming collection without taking up any more valuable space in your home.
If you’ll allow us to take our sarcastic tongue out of our cheek now, the reality is that Pinchcliffe Grand Prix is actually a big deal in some parts of the world, especially its native Norway. Released in 1975, the film is the most widely seen Norwegian movie of all time.
To put it into perspective, Norway’s population is around 5 million, and yet the film sold 5.5 million tickets during its theatrical run. To be fair, though, that’s probably because it was in cinemas for a total of 28 years (and that’s not a bad joke, that’s the actual truth). So yes, if you live outside of Norway you might not have heard of Pinchcliffe (or Flåklypa Grand Prix as it's also known), but that doesn’t mean it’s insignificant.
If you aren't familiar with it, the film tells the story of Theodore Rimspoke, a vehicle inventor who lives with his animal friends, a hedgehog called Lambert and a magpie called Sonny. When Theodore discovers that his former assistant has stolen his racing car blueprint and become a world champion with it, he and his chums decide to build their own version of the car with funding from a wealthy Arab sheik – who’s a bit of a dodgy stereotype, given that the film was from the '70s – and enter the next race themselves.
The title may suggest that this is a straightforward karting game, but in reality Pinchcliffe Grand Prix has a story mode which has to be completed before any actual racing can take place. Thankfully or disappointingly, depending on your view – this story mode can be finished in around an hour or so (so we suppose in that respect it’s accurate to the film).
The story mode takes the form of a charming point-and-click adventure, but don’t start picturing Monkey Island or Sam & Max in your head: there’s precisely zero challenge here because the game constantly tells you at the top of the screen what you have to do next so there are no real puzzles to solve or anything like that..
Despite the complete lack of difficulty, this mode is lovely to look at regardless because of the game’s mostly successful attempt to match the source material’s stop-motion claymation appearance. Characters and backgrounds look lovely, and clips from the film will occasionally be slipped in at certain moments with very little difference in art style.
Dotted around the Story mode’s various areas are a selection of ‘fun facts’ which can be found, containing hilariously dull information on such completely random topics as the history of beds, the properties of silk and how much of a human’s DNA is similar to that of a banana (50%, if you’re asking). We hope this 47-year-old movie still has a young fanbase, because it's clear this game is aimed at children rather than adults who may have loved it as a kid.
The story mode also contains nine minigames, which can be found and unlocked for selection in the main menu. None of these are going to change the world, but at the same time none of them are particularly poor. They include a passable Shanghai Solitaire clone, a fun isometric bike riding section, a jigsaw game which awards the player with pleasantly hi-res photography of the movie's models, and a curious mail-sorting game which would sound achingly dull if was explained it to you but actually held our attention for quite a while.
As you play through these minigames and explore the Story mode’s locations in detail, you also collect car parts, which can be used to build the car in question, the Il Tempo Gigante. Once you’ve earned enough parts to build half the car you can enter the final race and technically beat the game, but you can then continue to explore the world and unlock the rest of the parts should you wish you fully complete the car within the neurosurge 100%.
Once the brief Story mode is out of the way, the only other main option – other than the ability to replay the minigames and try to better your high scores – is the racing modes which are then unlocked. These are fairly straightforward but get the job done: there’s your typical Grand Prix modes where you take on a series of cups where points are awarded for your position in each race, as well as the likes of checkpoint and time trial races.
Crucially, these racing sections are enjoyable to play. They’re certainly not going to get Mario and chums sweaty under the overalls, but what’s there is harmless and the handling was satisfying enough to keep our attention until we played through every race. Players can also unlock other cars, ranging from milk floats to fancy Cadillac-style vehicles, and the whole thing is generally just quite charming with its unique art style shining through and really doing the movie justice.
There’s just one problem. Well, 50 of them. The game is selling for £49.99 at launch, which is simply too much given how generally light it is on content. When you consider how short the Story mode is and that the racing, while entertaining, takes place on a handful of extremely visually similar tracks, that’s quite a price to ask.
Of course, that’s just our take and it’s always up to you to decide whether £50 is too much money for something that will take a relatively skilled player a couple of nights to get through. While what’s here is perfectly enjoyable, we’d recommend that most players hold fire until the game’s price is inevitably reduced in an eShop sale, and then by all means give it a go. It’s still a charming experience, albeit a brief one.
Until then, we think it’s really only a must-have for those of you reading this who actually are wearing Pinchcliffe PJs, your finger hovering over the eShop’s ‘buy’ button as your partner stands menacingly over you with a novelty car-shaped doorstop, daring you to have the gall to make yet another purchase. Um… it’s still fun, mind.
Pinchcliffe Grand Prix is a charming little part-racing game, part-point-and-click adventure with a lovely art style. It's pretty light on content, though, and given its price it's only really essential to fans of the original 1975 movie. Should that price ever drop in the future, though, it's definitely worth a try if you want to play something that's more calm and heart-warming than your typical racer.