Mouse Trap (Atari 2600) review
"I'm not sure why the mouse looks so happy, all things considered, as a number of (possibly starving) felines patrol the corridors of the maze. Working in the mouse's favor were a few dog biscuits, which would turn it into a dog that could rip through the cats like me through a Thanksgiving turkey drumstick, sending them back to their cages � much like Pac-Man could do to ghosts."
Mouse Trap can simply be described as "Pac-Man, slightly altered" and it's pretty obvious its creation is rooting in that game's extreme popularity. Initially released in 1981 as an arcade game, it was ported to several of that time's home machines, including my beloved Atari 2600.
You controlled a happy maze-dwelling mouse looking to gorge himself on cheese, as well as a number of bonus items that popped up on screen, one after the next. I'm not sure why the mouse looks so happy, all things considered, as a number of (possibly starving) felines patrol the corridors of the maze. Working in the mouse's favor were a few dog biscuits, which would turn it into a dog that could rip through the cats like me through a Thanksgiving turkey drumstick, sending them back to their cages � much like Pac-Man could do to ghosts. Oh, and in a real cool move, you could store the biscuits for when you needed them. This put a nice touch of strategy into this game, as you could hold a couple biscuits for use when you found yourself cornered. The cats would be coming in for the kill, you'd suddenly transform into the dog and out of the blue, it's pussy munching time!
There were a few neat little twists in the arcade game, like three types of colored doors that you could make swing one way or another, opening new ways to run while being hunted. Also, there was an indestructible hawk who'd take you out no matter what form you were in, making quick movements quite necessary to survive for any length of time. Having to deal with six cats and one super-powered foe made this game one fun challenge, so I was overjoyed to find out I'd be able to hit it up on my Atari.
Sadly, the game did get somewhat neutered for the ol' 2600. Not Pac-Man style (which involves being raped of all dignity), but it did lose enough of what made it special, causing me to lose interest far more quickly than I'd have expected. All the doors were one color and they all moved together, so you could only manipulate the maze to take two layouts. The number of cats were lowered from six to three and the hawk disappeared. And in a true Atari 2600 "Pac-Man Moment", all the bonus items were also removed and everything left was worth dramatically fewer points, which took away from the joy of bragging about racking up a particularly high school. I was left with a somewhat stripped-down game in which I ate cheese, avoided cats and occasionally put down a biscuit to turn the hunter into the hunted. Not quite so memorable.
Still, at least the Atari 2600 version stayed true to the arcade game in spirit, if not in execution. Being able to have at least some control over the maze, as well as control exactly when it was time to become a dog were a couple of nice touches that allowed Mouse Trap to not be the monumental disappointment that Pac-Man was on the 2600. And when I was growing up, that was good enough for me!
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (November 26, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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