This is a guest review by Nat.
As a child of the 80's I felt at home with the joystick of my Atari 500, a Gameboy, Nintendo 64 pad or a Mega drive pad in my hand. However once puberty hit, I found my interest in gaming beginning to wane, there was drinking and boys to discover! So you can picture my horror when I returned to gaming some 8 years later to find my trusty N64 pad with its five buttons had been replaced by the Playstation pad with its 17 button combinations! I felt comfortable in my 2D platformers where the only buttons you needed to know were jump and fire, and the word shoulder button meant nothing at all to me. So unable to cope in this new world with the likes of Splinter Cell, Grand Theft Auto and Metal Gear, I have finally found my way back in. Kids games! So imagine my delight when Cat in the Hat fell into my lap (having been thrown at me from the real reviewer in disgust.)
I approached this game with some scepticism, all too often have we seen games producers attempting to cash in on the success of a film sometimes with disastrous results; Toy Story, Scorpion King and Shrek to name but a few. But this game actually pleasantly surprised, primarily because it does not pretend to be something that it isn't. It tells you on the box that this game is aimed for children of three and upwards, so if you are expecting strategic game playing then this is not the game for you!
The story is simple enough. Cat's magic is strewn around various levels which comprise of household objects. Your job as the Cat is to work your way through the levels recapturing the magic before evil neighbour Quinn gets to it. Along the way there are keys to find that open up bonus levels, and clapper boards that play scenes from the movie. After chasing Quinn through a few levels there is a one on one boss fight to contend with.
The game is simply a 2D platformer, and for those of us counting buttons, other than direction buttons there are only four to master. The in game graphics are nice, and as the action is 2D there are no problems with awkward camera angles. The first level, the grandfather clock acts as a walk through tutorial with the Fish offering helpful hints, however this is where the first flaw in the game lies. At no point in the tutorial does the Fish tell you that you have to collect every single last piece of magic on every level. Gone are the days of Mario and Sonic when gold coins would earn you an extra life. They have been replaced with children who will not let you access other parts of the house until you have "cleaned" up that part of the house. It is only later when you try to enter the next level that you discover, that to "clean" up a part of the house you must collect all clapper boards, the crystal from the bonus round and all of the magic points. With there being 1500 magic points on each level the task is somewhat arduous, especially if you have to go back through levels you thought you had completed to find those missing 12 points!
The Fish raises another problem. Aside form the tutorial the Fish just takes to hurling abuse at you, made from sound bites from the film. After a while this becomes so irritating that you just stop asking for his advice, so if at some point later on, he will have something useful to say you are unlikely to hear it as you will have run past, having expected to hear something along the lines of "you took your time didn't you!" The dialogue from Cat is similarly limited to sound bites from the film and can also become very irritating. If I heard "how can a cat have such a dog of a day?" once I heard it a thousand times.
Background noise is noises that you would associate with the household appliance that you are currently working your way through. A more interesting soundtrack may have given this game a bit more of an edge.
The only other criticism I have for this game is the level of difficulty of the first boss fight with Quinn. Whilst we all know that boss fights are not meant to be easy, this first fight seems extremely difficult given the level of skill needed for the proceeding levels, and can come as quite a shock. So remember forewarned is forearmed!
Despite the criticism levied above, the fact is, I'm still playing the game. The game is addictive and has sustained my attention for well over a week now. Whilst it may not take rocket science to jump from platform to platform and blow bubbles from an umbrella, there is something childishly fun about it. It is important to remember that this game is aimed at small children, but if like me, your girlfriend, when faced with complex button combinations resorts to pad mashing, then this may just be the game for them!