The Many Faces of . . . Mouse Trap

by Alan Hewston

"Mouse Trap, Mouse Trap, Cheese is the bait". . . lyrics from the song Mouse Trap by Buckner and Garcia off their Pac-Man ever Album. This game was popular enough to have a song written about it, but only 3 home versions were released in the Joystick (Classic) era. With Coleco having exclusive rights to this Exidy game, it was limited to the 3 systems that Colecovision programmed for.

You are the mouse collecting cheese, dog bones and other treasures and must avoid the cats and the hawk. Trapped like a rat in a maze, you must collect all the cheese to move to the next level. Each dog bone collected allows you to turn into a dog for long enough to get away and/or to eliminate a few cats in the process. Bonus points are earned, and escalate in value, for each successive treasure collected, and cat you catch while you are a dog. The maze has 3 colored doors that must be opened or closed to get all of the cheese, but you can also use them to avoid or trap the cats. Once the level begins, the cats will come out one at a time, to play (chase you) in the maze. Later levels and starting options allow for the cats to come out faster, chase you faster and/or be smarter. But, you must also keep away from the hawk who will come out and kill your mouse, even if it has turned into a dog. The center of the maze lies an IN passage that takes you to one of the 4 corners. The bones and treasures are always near to the corners.

Extra lives are all too generously given out and keep you going - like forever - so play one of the more challenging settings or prepared to get bored.

Aracade Game Designed by: Larry W. Hutcherson Sr.

Classic Platforms: Atari 2600, Colecovision, & Intellivision.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Here's a game that I've never really played much of, and I must apologize that I didn't do much homework, such as playing the MAME or arcade versions either. I think that all of the gameplay was included on the Colecovision and Intellivision versions.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (29)
Being a complex, 4 button game, the Atari 2600 version just had to suffer - but actually does quite well considering. The Gameplay is severely handicapped by the three colored doors (and maybe some poor programming by Coleco) and scores a marginal (3). Instead of three door colors, the much simplified maze is composed of one set of doors that are toggled with the fire button, when held and released. Using the fire button and quickly releasing activates a dog bone. At least this fire-and-release / fire-and-hold-then-release technique attempt to fill the bill. An improvement may have been to hold the button and simultaneously move in one direction, where the three door colors and dog bone are one of each of the directions. A small number of joystick era games do something similar to get four directions, plus four more commands out of the limited stick. But, I digress. (Strike One!) Additional features missing are: not enough cats, no hawk, and no warning that a cat is entering the maze. Plus the maze is really small. The A/B difficulty switches do allow options for harder and/or faster cats, without this, the game would really become boring fast. There is an added feature of the 2600 Gameplay that is unique, but probably was not planned. Once you have pushed the dog bone button, you can immediately push it again, and consume another bone. This is not something that most players would want to do, as you lose the bone and get nothing more for it. But, what if you wanted to push the button again, not right away, but right before you would turn back into a mouse again, and potentially get killed. All versions could have allowed such an improvement, so that you can prevent getting killed just before you turned back into a dog again. You use up a bone, but get to be a dog again for x number of seconds again. Neat idea. But I digress again (Strike Two!).

Anyhow, the Sound was not too bad (5), but there is no music and not much else going for it. On a positive note, the Controls are perfect (10) and you get what you want, when you want it. Each tap of the stick moves you exactly one unit along the maze. The Graphics are pretty good (7) and do not detract form the game. There just isn't much used. The Addictiveness is lame scoring a (4). When there really is not that much going on, the game isn't worth playing.

Silver Medal: Colecovision (33)
I'm sure that Coleco intended this version to best the Intellivision, but that's not my finding. Despite everything being included in the programming, the Gameplay only scores a (7) very good. Unless a game has a pause (and this does not), it loses 1 point. But they botched up 3+ Gameplay features that nearly ruin this game for me (-2 points). The worst offender is that the movement of the mouse is done in half spaces. Why in the world would you move in half spaces when everything else is based on full spaces? This makes for a lot of fighting with the controller. I did not penalize the Controls for this SNAFU. Then, when you collect a treasure/bonus, not only do you get a nice chime, but you also get a delay of game penalty. It takes some getting used to, as you are rolling along and then everything pauses for a split second, and then before the audio clip is done, the game resumes. Finally, when going into the IN box, your mouse is thrown so quickly to a corner, that you cannot see which one it went to. You either had to be watching with a hawk-like eye (pun intended), or search the corners to find yourself. I learned to check, when possible, all corners first (for cats), and then zip into the IN box. There is also a poor feature that only up to 4 dog bones are displayed, regardless of how many you actually have. Perhaps this matches the arcade, or to make it harder, or to simplify the graphics, but the INTY version shows up to 8 bones in reserve. Just when you thought you had a nice stash of bones, they're gone before you'd notice.

Added features include a brief intermission for every level, and every new mouse played. The game pauses while the new mouse runs from the top left (extra life reserve area) and moves on down to the maze. A feature that is different on the CV and INTY is the cat warning - when a cat is ready to leave one of the 4 the waiting boxes and jump into the maze. The INTY provides an audio cue, whereas the CV is purely visual. Too bad I discovered this after my marathon game ended. I got used to the easy to notice INTY audio alert, and noticed later that on the CV, the cat stops pacing when it is ready to pounce. Perhaps the arcade version was purely visual, which actually is more challenging, and realistic. There is no pause button, which is odd, and unfortunate for a CV game [although . . . when playing without a hawk, you can lock yourself into a box and hide - ie pause]. As is usual, the CV version (& INTV) offers 2 player games, and 4 levels of difficulty. Unfortunately, they did not have the wisdom to program game 1 to add the hawk at some point - thus playing game 1 becomes a marathon.

The Controls were fair (5), but again a major frustration. None of my five CV sticks give me the control that I really want. This score would be worse if not for the Amiga stick. I also like the Intellivision button controls better than the CV. The indentations of the CV control buttons, rather, the plastic between the keypads hinders me - blocks my shot (button press). When I need to press on that Dog Bone button, I want it now. The door color layout was good and easy to remember, Red, White (actually Yellow) and Blue across the top of the controller. The overlays are pretty, but not necessary.

The Graphics are crisp (8), the best of the three and include all of the bonuses and effects that you'd want from a game, but nothing really spectacular. The Sound is pretty good (7), but I liked the INTY a wee bit better. Finally, the Addictiveness is decent (6), but suffers from the complexity and difficulty of using the controllers.

Gold Medal: Intellivision (37)
You thought that I'd never give a gold medal to an Intellivision cart. Every score is at least a 7, which means that nothing is lacking (But then, nothing is exceptional either). I really enjoyed playing this game despite my dislike of the INTY controllers. I highly recommend using the stick insert to make the INTY pad an INTY stick. The Gameplay is nice (8) and has nothing to hinder it, but also does not have a pause. The Graphics are pretty good (7), but are a bit ragged. The Controls were actually pretty good (7) . . . and I expected worse. Somehow I was able to quickly get by - most importantly to control the stick, but then also to learn to use the button pads easier than the CV. The Sound is nice (8), essentially the same quality as the CV, but nothing special. The Addictiveness is pretty good (7), making it the one that I'd like to play the most. I played this game longer in one game than any previous sitting playing INTY games.

Come back in the cold icy days of February when I plan to push a few ice blocks around and review Pengo for the Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Commodore 64 and Atari 8 bit.

(Alan Hewston is now looking for the Colecovision version of Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns - if you have one for sale or trade, Pitfall Harry can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net Stay tuned for a possible Retrogaming Times review of the really Lost Caverns of Pitfall II - the Adventurer's Edition. And if the DP Guide finally arrives next month, I may get my list of 2000 Video Games updated and published.)

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