Catrap
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Boy
  • Developer:
    • Asmik
  • Publisher:
    • Asmik
  • Released:
    • JP 06/01/1990
    • US September 1990
Score: 75%

This review was published on 04/05/2015.

Catrap is a puzzle video game developed and published by Asmik for the original Game Boy. It was released in Japan on June 1, 1990, and North America in September 1990. Known as Pitman in Japan and Power Paws in Europe, the game originally was developed for the Sharp MZ-700 computer in 1985 by Yutaka Isokawa. The source code of the game was printed in the August 1985 issue of a magazine called "Oh!MZ," causing it to get numerous adaptations in the following months. Eventually, the game got popular enough in Japan to receive a Game Boy reimagining five years later. This game is credited as being the first one to have a time rewinding feature, similar to the rewind feature of emulators like ZSNES. Catrap is a delightful little game that eschews time limits, limited lives, and other classic conventions in favor of providing a pure puzzle experience that will put your grey matter to the ultimate test.

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The game is called Catrap because it stars two anthropomorphic cat people named Catboy and Catgirl, and they're both trapped. Clever, I know. The original game didn't have anything to do with cats, but the Game Boy version changed that. I'm assuming the game was rebranded with a cutesy cat theme to sell better in the larger Game Boy market. Anyway, the two cool cats have been banished to a mysterious underground labyrinth of complex maxes. As if their situation wasn't already dire enough, these puzzling mazes are filled to the brim with ferocious monsters. The only way out for the two feline explorers is to solve a bunch of puzzles; 100, to be precise. Will they be able to solve all these puzzles before going insane or starving to death? Find out by playing the game! Being that you're the player, it's your job to guide these two spelunkers to their safety.

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Control wise, this game is extremely simple. Just about all of the game play is performed with the d-pad; walking is done by pressing left or right, pressing up climbs ladders, moving towards a rock pushes it, and so on. The buttons, on the other hand, are used to pause, rewind, and fast forward the game. Due to the nature of the puzzles in this game, becoming irreversibly stuck is a common occurrence, and that's what the rewind feature is for. If you rewind too far, don't worry, because the fast forward will undo the rewind. It's also possible to completely reset the puzzle at any time with the menu, in case you don't feel like rewinding all the way back to the beginning. All these features come at absolutely no cost, so you can use them with impunity. When the game is paused, you can also move the screen around to check the stage's layout, though this is rarely necessary, as puzzles typically aren't bigger than the screen. Because of how simple and intuitive the controls are, Catrap is a very easy game to get into.

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So what is this game actually like? Well, you control one of the two cats in a side-scrolling perspective, and the basic premise is to defeat all the monsters in the room. Doing so allows you to progress into the next room and you repeat this process until the game is complete. All you have to do to beat a baddie is to walk into them; it's that simple. Of course, actually getting to them isn't always that simple. Unlike in real life, the cats can't jump, so you'll have to make sure there's a clear path leading to every foe. Often times, this means pushing rocks into gaps to use them as makeshift bridges and other related shenanigans. The only way to gain height in the game is to climb ladders, but the cats can safely fall from any distance. Landing on an enemy won't actually defeat them, though you can stand or walk on top of them to reach other areas. You can't actually die or lose, meaning the focus is entirely on puzzle solving. The first 99 puzzles can be done in any order, but the last one remains locked until all the others are finished. As a result of all that, Catrap has an incredibly casual feel to it.

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Normally, the vast majority of puzzles are single character affairs, and you can pick whichever character you want to solve them with. Occasionally, however, there are puzzles that require the control of both characters. In such situations, you control one character at a time, but are able to switch between them by pressing the select button. These are some of the toughest puzzles in the game, as they require the cooperation of both characters to succeed. Both characters have the same abilities, so it's just about having an extra pair of hands around. Catgirl and Catboy can use each other as footstools to reach areas they normally can't on their own. A nice touch is how the music changes depending on which character you're currently controlling. The duel character puzzles change up the formula ever so slightly, making them a welcomed part of the game.

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If you're the creative type, then you're in luck, because this game lets you construct your very own puzzles. Select the edit option on the main menu and off you go! Once inside the level editor, you pick the desired objects with the start button, and then place them using the A and B buttons. It's a fairly easy-to-use editor and you have access to everything that's seen in the main game. There are only five slots available for custom levels, but you can delete and recreate them as many times as you'd like. A copy option also exists, enabling you to quickly copy a created stage to another slot. Unfortunately, there's no save system, so your creations must be preserved using passwords instead. The passwords are really long, too, which is a bummer. On the bright side, you can give these passwords to a friend and they'll be able to play your custom puzzle on their game; no link cables required.

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Catrap is an ideal puzzle game for the ideal puzzle gamer. The intuitive controls, lack of danger, and rewinding and fast forwarding features make this a laid back, casual puzzle solving experience. You can even go through most of the puzzles in whatever order you like, further adding to the game's casual feel. That's not to say that the game isn't challenging, though. The game gets insidiously difficult later on, even with all the convenient features. There's nothing more satisfying than being stumped on a puzzle for hours and then having that eureka moment where everything falls into place. Moments like those are the mark of a good puzzle game.

Word Count: 1,139

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