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Mouse Trap (Atari 2600) artwork

Mouse Trap (Atari 2600) review

"A sneaky little mouse and three furry cats are all hungry. All the mouse wants are a few pieces of cheese, but the cats would rather have a living creature for lunch, such as a mouse! Each of the three felines are extremely greedy; they don't want to divide a mouse into thirds; they all want the entire feast for themselves, so they all go their separate ways in the twisting maze. "

A sneaky little mouse and three furry cats are all hungry. All the mouse wants are a few pieces of cheese, but the cats would rather have a living creature for lunch, such as a mouse! Each of the three felines are extremely greedy; they don't want to divide a mouse into thirds; they all want the entire feast for themselves, so they all go their separate ways in the twisting maze.

You get to control the always-smiling rat face that's looking straight at you from your television. His stomach is rumbling and he can't wait to get his whiskers on all those luscious square pieces of cheese, so you must move him around the maze and collect every single block of the famous dairy product. In each of the four corners of the maze lies an x-shaped item. What could it be? From noticing that Mouse Trap plays just like Pac-Man, you would think that they're power pellets, or power cheeses in this case, that would allow you to eat the cats. Eww. Why would a mouse want to eat a cat?!!

These x-shaped items are dog biscuits. This mouse doesn't like the taste of dog biscuits one bit, but he'll do anything to escape the sharp claws of those pesky cats. At any time during the game, you can opt to turn the smiling, vulnerable rat into a fierce, angry-looking dog (talk about being two faced) that can run into the cats and make them go back to their respective place on the outside part of the maze for a few seconds. Or, if you don't really have revenge on your mind, turn into a dog for protection and just collect the pieces of cheese instead of chasing the cats around the corner.

Along with having the ability to change into a canine in the blink of an eye, there's another strategy you can use while playing Mouse Trap. Look closely and you'll see small parts of the maze that are flashing nonstop. These are movable barriers, or trapdoors. Press the button slowly on the joystick controller and these barriers will all move a bit, forming a newly closed-in space while the other side of them becomes more wide open. This makes way for some great strategy. Time it right and you could box-in the cats and laugh at them as you collect the pieces of cheese that they were guarding a few seconds ago, or you could simply move the barriers so you can get to certain blocks of cheese right away instead of having to take the long way.

Once you engulf every single piece of cheese on the screen, the same maze (it never changes) will instantly fill back up with cheese and dog biscuits (mmm, I'm getting hungry, aren't you?). The cats start out at normal speed (not quite as fast as you), and they get a bit faster as you clear more and more mazes.

Yes, Mouse Trap is pretty much a Pac-Man clone, but not entirely. In Pac-Man, there were holes in the sides of the maze for quick access to the other side, but there's nothing of the such in Mouse Trap. There are no fruits or other goodies that bounce around the maze in Mouse Trap. Pac-Man doesn't have the trapdoor barriers that you can move around that Mouse Trap does. But, you do just move around a maze eating stuff while trying to avoid a few deadly enemies in both games, so you'll hear people compare the two titles until the end of time.

Graphically, Mouse Trap is pretty good. The mouse and cats' faces are always quickly moving (they go from being straight-faced to smiling faster than a human ever could), and you can even see the mouse's ears twitching and the cats' tails and feet moving back and forth. The characters are also drawn with a nice amount of detail, and the game is very colorful for an Atari 2600 title. The pieces of cheese and the dog biscuits don't resemble the respective foods at all, however.

When you start a new game of Mouse Trap, a cheerful tune will play for a few seconds before the action begins. Like that lone music track, the sound of collecting cheese and dog biscuits, and the sound of moving the trapdoors into place is likely to cheer you up with the cheerful, loud and clear sounds. While you won't ever hear the mouse squeak or anything, each time you come into contact with a cat (as either a mouse or dog), the cat will cry out in terror or glee (both the same sound), and it actually sounds like a real cat. Unfortunately, while the sounds in Mouse Trap are great, I just now listed each and every one of them, so there's not much of a variety to the audio.

Finally we have the control. It couldn't be easier to move the mouse around the maze in the four directions that he can move, but I do have a big fuss about pressing the button. The instruction booklet tells you to quickly press the button on the joystick once to morph into a dog, but to press it once, slowly, to move the trapdoors. It's a cinch to turn into a dog, and it's usually simple to press the button and make the trapdoors move in place. Unfortunately, many times while you're playing Mouse Trap you'll likely press the button wanting to switch the trapdoors to their other positions, but you'll turn into a dog instead! And the bad thing is, this always seems to happen at the wrong time, when you don't need to turn into a dang mutt.

Mouse Trap is actually one of the best ''Pac-Man clones'' that you'll ever play. It's different enough from Pac-Man to have a name of its own, and it's fun to try and roll the score as you laugh at the idea of turning from a mouse into a dog and at the shrieks you hear from the cats. I don't recommend getting Mouse Trap unless you're a fan of the Pac-Man games. If you like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, or any of the others in that series, then you'll probably like Mouse Trap a good bit.

To make your gaming experience even better, you can use the difficulty switch on your Atari 2600 console to play the game with either stupid cats (the cats won't chase you, they'll just run back and forth as if they're trying to burn energy) or smart cats (they'll actually chase you).

You can also make Mouse Trap all the more challenging with the color/black & white switch. If the switch is in the color space, you'll be able to see everything clear as day. If you think you're good, flip the switch into the black & white position and the maze, cheese, and bones will all be invisible. All you'll be able to see of the playing field is the mouse and the cats. At one time, I actually thought that my Mouse Trap cartridge was messed up since I couldn't see the maze. I told a bunch of people, ''Damn, Mouse Trap doesn't work right anymore; I can't see the mazes!'' Thank God for instruction manuals!

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Community review by retro (October 31, 2003)

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