505 Games brings a lighthearted platforming experience to the Nintendo DS with the verbosely titled Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore The Video Game. Based on the movie of the same name, Cats & Dogs is an action oriented side-scroller that boasts seven different mission types spanning over forty-five missions. Unfortunately few of these missions, regardless of type, are very challenging, which will leave the seasoned gamer craving a more rewarding experience. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of the movie and a casual video game player, then you’ll find Cats & Dogs to be a complementary addition to your DS’s library.
Cats & Dogs’ story reflects the sort of depth we’ve all come to expect from a kid’s movie. Following the events of the source material, the game has three playable characters: Diggs, a dog from “Canine Special Forces,” Catherine, a cat from “Mousers Enforcing our World’s Safety (MEOW),” and Seamus, the “wisecracking pigeon from the streets.” While there isn’t much of a plot, the story is played out in the text-based dialogue between characters. Unfortunately, after two or three dialogue sequences it becomes clear they weren’t written to actually be read. For example, as the game’s power trio delves into one of the main villain’s hiding places the dialogue between characters reads:
“Sniff. Sniff. I smell cats”
“Sniff. Sniff. I smell danger”
“Sniff. Sniff. I smell pancakes. Blueberry pancakes.”
This sort of repetitious and ridiculous dialogue defines Cats & Dogs’ story and reflects the young audience it was intended for. Since few kids will even read the dialogue at all, it’s a plus the game includes real scenes from the movie. The scenes act as a life raft for the eye-rolling text dialogue and are showcased with a sharp resolution on the top of the DS. Despite the silly text, the game’s carefree nature has a certain charm and buoyancy that generally makes up for it and will please the game’s target audience.
Finishing Cats & Dogs shouldn’t take an experienced gamer longer than three or four hours. Each of the forty-five plus missions take around three to five minutes to complete and none of the seven different mission types stand out as particularly harder than the other. Although the game offers a ranking system that measures your performance on each level, achieving a top rank (or “gold” bone) never feels like much of an achievement. This is largely attributed to the in-game tutorials, which eliminate any need for the player to problem solve. Also, while there is a life bar, the game lacks any sort of numerical lives. This wouldn’t be a problem except the consequence of your character dying is so small, it eliminates any sort of tension that would otherwise draw you into the experience. Those issues aside, I doubt casual gamers will mind the game holding their hand. Cats & Dogs will also be a great introduction to platformers for the younger gamer since its core mechanics are both fluid and functional.
A common problem with platformers, both 2D and 3D, is their frustratingly imprecise controls and vague camera angles. Fortunately, Cats & Dogs shines in its clarity in control and on-screen visual information. Each playable character has a unique physics engine that is never frustrating or vague. Also, the game’s combat mechanic is well done and offers an enjoyable learning curve. While functional and straightforward, the level design can be a little repetitive. Gamers might even find themselves in a state of déjà vu since many of the levels are recycled from previous sections. As for the graphics and sound, while neither is flashy, they’re both stable and contribute to the game’s fluid design.
While not revolutionary or particularly challenging, Cats & Dogs is a title that knows its audience and isn’t afraid to show it. Having grown up in an era of inexcusably frustrating platform games based on movies, I found myself divided on Cats & Dogs. On one hand, the game controls well, looks decent and is never frustrating. On the other hand, I can’t help but be bothered by the lack of challenge presented throughout the game. Maybe it’s because I had to walk barefoot through fifteen miles of snow everyday on my way to school, but in my day platforming games were made to be hard. Regardless, a title like this one shows that game developers are finding ways to make games more accessible to a younger audience. Modern society can now look forward to a whole generation of gamers without the need for psychiatric assistance from all the impossibly hard video games my generation played as kids.