Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Random Game I've Never Heard Of #7

Magical Cat Adventure (1993)
By: Wintechno Co. Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 128,700
Also Available For: Nothing

As embarrassing as it probably should be to admit, as a gamer I’ve always been partial to cute, happy, jolly games, especially platformers. I’m not always in the mood for them of course, but at the right time there’s nothing like a relaxing, colourful journey across some wacky, distant, and mysterious land. Identifying previously unknown games of this type by name alone is often fairly easy too – they usually contain a telltale animal-ish name and also often feature words like ‘magical’ and ‘adventure’, and it was via this highly scientific method that this latest addition to the ‘Random Game’ feature here at Red Parsley was discovered. However, upon giving it a try I soon realised that not only had I never heard of the game but not even the company that released it. An unknown game by an unknown company could spell big trouble...

The first stage features grass and trees? Never!
Let's not speak too soon though - one reason for its lack of exposure could be because it was released only in Japan. This also means I can't accurately relay the story but, judging by the short intro sequence, it's your typical 'peaceful land gets invaded by evil spirit/creature of some sort who reigns sorrow on all' type affair. Stepping in to save the day is a bipedal feline who, in the absence of any supplemental materials, we will henceforth call Tiddles. Unlike many of the anthropomorphic animals we find in videogames, Tiddles initially appears to be fairly realistic - sadly, he doesn't meow or purr (there should've been a button dedicated to making cat noises for no reason), but he looks like a normal cat (aside from walking upright, obviously), he moves quite quickly, and is reasonably agile, but it soon becomes apparent that the similarities end there.

Eeek! Look at that scary rock-face in the background!
There are five themed stages in total, each divided into a few sections, and each is home to unique enemies, contact with whom costs Tiddles one of his three hit points. However, he doesn't hiss, arch his back, and slash at them with his claws as you might expect a cat to - instead his default attack is to fire knives. He has an unlimited supply of them and treasure chests which float across the screen contain different types of projectile attacks. These pesky things can also cause damage to Tiddles but opening one by shooting it reveals a power-up icon including sparkly star things, firebombs, wide windy cat-head shot things, twin fireballs, and special bombs which release flamey dragons, all of which are also unlimited in their use. There's also a good few other pick-ups to look out for including extra energy and lives, gems (ten of which restore a hit-point), and coins for bonus points (collecting a hundred of them might do something - extra life, perhaps? - but I haven't managed to collect that many in one stage yet).

I'm surprised those flamey faces don't melt the ice...
As is written in videogame law, the first of the themed stages here is of the lush, grassy, forest persuasion. Later ones take in similarly clichéd locales as fiery chasms, icy caverns, a giant haunted house, and the obligatory castle where, no doubt, the evil demon is holed up. His cronies guard the exits of the other stages too, with each requiring quite a number of shots to despatch. Standard enemies are generally exclusive to one stage and mostly consist of rather non-evil-looking things such as toadstools, rabbits, ostriches, penguins, etc, as well as a few more sinister creatures such as bats and ghosts. All are defeated by a single shot from whichever weapon Tiddles may be using, and he has one other trick up his sleeve too.

A succession of pirate ships manned by pirate cats!
If he is able to build up enough speed, he develops some sort of energy field which renders him invulnerable to the enemies for as long as he runs unimpeded. It can't be used against the bosses but it's pretty handy for navigating crowded areas! Care must be taken, however, as it doesn't protect him from the traps and obstacles that he'll also encounter including the usual spikes, flames, and swinging balls on chains, as well as the ever-helpful bottomless pits of death. As you may have gathered by now, whatever Magical Cat Adventure's good points may be, originality is not one of them! While it's not really a direct rip-off of any one game - I was reminded of many while playing - the one I thought of most often was the original Sonic the Hedgehog.

Eeek, scary ghosts and even paintings!
Few stages feature multiple routes through them, although there are lots of areas away from the main route, usually littered with bonuses, but it's not a game that allows you to go everywhere and collect everything (something I like to do!). One thing preventing this is that the screen only scrolls back a short distance but, more cripplingly than that, there's also a fairly strict time-limit. This, along with Tiddles running speed, his energetic shield thing (which, when jumping, looks suspiciously like Sonic's spin-attack), and the predominantly hilly, slopey, design of most stages, indicates quite clearly that Wintechno designed the game to be played very quickly. Much like Sega's game, coincidentally. Something else Tiddles' game shares with Sonic's is that they're both rather pleasant to look at. Some areas can feel a little 'bare' at times but most of the foreground and background graphics here are really nice.

Tiddles will need all nine of his lives in this castle...
The sprites are also quite nice with some great animation on Tiddles (including one for 'over-balancing' - mandatory for any early-to-mid-90's platformer) and the music is decent enough as well, although the sound effects are few. Control of Tiddles isn't bad - he moves with inertia which must be taken into account when making precise movements - and things do seem a little clunky at times, but overall it's okay. Much like the game really. Its visual style immediately reminded me of something like Brian the Lion (yes, I know it's newer but still) and seems much more like a European Amiga game than a Japanese arcade one, and like many such games its main problem isn't a basic one but more that it just lacks that special something - a bit of character, atmosphere. It doesn't do anything remotely noteworthy, and can be a little boring at times, as well as occasionally frustrating (mainly due to respawning enemies), but it doesn't really do anything wrong either. It looks nice and is quite enjoyable to play, it just needed... something more. Not bad but don't expect to be bowled over.

RKS Score: 6/10


  1. I have to admit, I was drawn to this post by the game's title -- which conjured up images of Bubble Bobble clones like Pop'n Magic, Magical Whip and Rabi Laby and the like. As such, I'm a bit disappointed to see that it's just a bog-standard platformer. Oh, well. It looks nice enough, I guess, but it doesn't sound all that exciting, so I'll probably steer clear of it for the time being. Still, it was a good read, so thanks for that :)

  2. Thanks Bryan, glad you enjoyed it :) It's one of those games where it wouldn't make any difference if it was erased from existence, but since it is here, it's not bad :P

  3. Ha! I like the way you put that, Simon. Too bad you weren't a reviewer back in the day -- that line could have appeared in the game's marketing materials :)

  4. I've played this game back in the time in the arcades.
    I have few nice remember of this one, it was my favorite along with Spin Masters :]

  5. Wow, you actually saw a real live arcade version?! Maybe it wasn't only released in Japan after all then. There still can't have been too many machines in 'the West' though... (>_<)

  6. Yeah, a real arcade cabinet! It was in a bowling center, along with others cabinets :]