Review by Shady
"Here kitty kitty kitty"
Alley Cat is an old (as in 1984-old) action game that places you in the role of a young alley cat looking to cause all sorts of mischief. The game is set in an alley, of course, with many different obstacles set there to prevent you from causing trouble. As a result of the numerous obstacles, Alley Cat is a very difficult game, and it may cast all sorts of frustration upon you.
As the black alley cat, it is your goal to earn as many points as possible by performing various tasks. You start off at the bottom of the screen (in the alley). There are barrels to the side of you and clotheslines alongside buildings above you. You have to jump onto the top of the barrels, then up onto the clotheslines. From there, you have to wait until a window opens so you can jump into the building. That may sound easy in writing, but it really isn't, thanks largely in part to the seemingly endless obstacles.
Some of these so-called obstacles are cats that pop their heads out from inside of the barrels (they knock you off if you are on their barrel), nasty pitbulls that run along on the bottom of the screen (they kill you if touched), and some very annoying brooms that are inside the windows (they make you go flying all over the place). There are even more nuisances than the aforementioned - make sure to look out for mice that run around on clotheslines, and electric eels in a certain 'mini-game'.
There are quite a few mini-games in Alley Cat that can be played by reaching the apartment windows. Some of the mini-games include knocking a bird cage to the floor (while avoiding pitbulls and brooms, of course), eating all of the fish in a fish tank (while avoiding electric eels), and catching four mice in a gigantic block of cheese while avoiding the pitbulls and broom. The purpose of the entire game is to complete these mini-games - they are what gives you points in the game.
Alley Cat is without a doubt an extremely difficult game. There are four levels of difficulty - kitten, house cat, tomcat, and alley cat. Don't let the number of modes fool you - each one is very tough. The harder the level you choose, the less objects you have to help you. Windows will also open and shut a lot faster in the higher difficulty levels, making the game very frustrating. If you have the patience you may succeed, but it will still be quite challenging.
Thankfully, the cat you play as is very fast. While not as fast as the pitbulls or brooms, the cat is still fast nonetheless. Speed can be gained by holding down the arrow key in the direction you wish to go. A speed-powered jump can be executed by holding down the left or right arrow key and then pressing the up key. Regular jumps are performed by pressing the up key. I did notice that sometimes the cat doesn't respond very fast to the controls, which makes the game even more frustrating. Even with that problem, the controls are still very simple and easy to learn, which is a definite plus.
Visually, Alley Cat keeps the fashionable ancient look going. The game looks very old (because it is old!). The backgrounds are usually just one solid color and the characters themselves aren't very colorful either. In fact, sometimes the characters blend right in with the backgrounds, rendering a death almost impossible to avoid. The visuals aren't all bad - the fences in the alley have a nice amount of detail, showing graffiti (including the score and amount of lives left), and even little holes here and there. The graphics are average at best.
I found the sound to be fairly memorable, particularly the opening tune and the ever present sound of danger when a pitbull is approaching. Once the pitbull sound is heard, you know you better get off the ground soon or you will be Fluffy's new dog food. The sound isn't really menacing; it's just one that is easily recognizable. The rest of the audio is not bad in the least, and is actually quite decent.
All in all, Alley Cat is an interesting game plagued by one problem - the insane difficulty. The high level of challenge makes the game a very frustrating experience, but I still recommend playing the game. If you ever see it available for download, give it a try (if only to see what games were like back when dinosaurs roamed the earth).
Best Feature - The nostalgia.
Worst Feature - It's too hard.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 10/21/01, Updated 08/07/02
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