reviews\ Nov 16, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat - PS2 - Review

Out of all of the books that I read as a child, I always enjoyed the weird and entertaining world of Dr. Seuss. Wuzzles, Whos, and Zizzer Zazzer Zuzzes are just a few of the creations that amuse and entertain many around the world, both then and now. Recently, Brian Grazer made Dr. Seuss’ classic Grinch story into a live action movie, and a little later on many of us will also be amused by one of my all time favorite Seuss book characters … The Cat in the Hat … as he is brought to life in the movies. Well, wherever there is a popular or “possibly popular” movie … a game is almost sure to follow somewhere. Sure enough, The Cat in the Hat is now gracing the PS2 console.


The story for the game follows the movie and story to an extent with Conrad and Sally as they are forced to stay in the house while their mother has gone out. The Cat in the Hat shows up, much to the dismay of the goldfish who keeps reminding the kids “he should not be here when your mother is out”. Well, the Cat brings his box of magic with him, and all is fun and games until Mr. Quinn … the evil next door neighbor … tricks Conrad into opening the box which not only lets out the magic, but also winds up transforming the house into a magical Seuss world. Now … it’s up to the Cat in the Hat to chase Quinn through the magical worlds and get the Crablock back to the box, get the house cleaned up, and do all of this before Mom gets home.


The Cat in the Hat’s gameplay is a linear, 3-D world, side scrolling style platformer, which closely reminded me of games like Pandemonium for the PSX system. The Cat primarily runs left and right only jumping ledges, finding secret entrances, and using his umbrella to hook ziplines, smash boxes, float, shoot bubbles to trap enemies and use them as fired weapons, and collect magic swirlies throughout the various stages as he pursues Quinn throughout the various transformed objects in the house. Each stage that Quinn enters requires a certain amount of magic to unlock, which is obtained throughout the prior stage. In addition, each stage also contains a secret area that is unlocked by finding the four keys from Thing 1 and Thing 2, wherever in the stage they may be.


While many games can shamelessly plug a movie and don’t seem to have a whole lot of creativity thrown in, Cat in the Hat was surprisingly well thought out in my opinion. The stages that he enters are loaded with tons of Seuss like weird objects and hazards on the paths and in the backgrounds, and there is a pretty good variety of “find this first before progressing to this part” kind of puzzles. For example, some blocks can only be blasted out of the way by using a ball of explosive goo. In order to do this, you may have to backtrack a tad to catch an enemy, go a completely opposite direction, and find a goo machine which transforms captured enemies into the slimy substance you need, then head back to the box and blast it out of the way.


Another thing that I thought was pretty neat was the game play idea. While I was a little confused on how they were going to make a game using the magic cat as a main character, my questions were answered as the goldfish explained all of the umbrella uses during the first couple of stages. The developers made sure that the drifting, hooking, slamming, and shooting possibilities were all wrapped up in his umbrella, and the stage designs allow you to use almost all of these things pretty consistently in order to keep moving forwards and reach the end of the stage.


On a downside, while the idea was neat and turned out to be pretty well executed, the linear gameplay may not appeal to all platformer fans nowadays. Gamers who are spoiled by the 3-D versions of platforming titles may not like the lack of overall free roaming exploration, and the entire game runs on left – right rails the whole way through. Old school 2-D platforming fans will probably have a lot more fun with it through, and this may not wind up being much of a concern for them. Secondly, the game probably won’t take platforming fans more than a couple of days to run through, even though the challenge gets more difficult as you progress.


Graphically, the Cat in the Hat turned out to be pretty decent. As I stated before, the levels were pretty well thought out and contained loads of hazards and a colorful, wacky appearance and the backgrounds, characters and creatures were all good representations of the Dr. Seuss style of artwork, many complete with curly antennae and the hairy, oversized pointy feet.


Overall, The Cat in the Hat is not going to be for everyone, and while many who are fans of the stories from their past or current childhood will get some enjoyment out of it, 2-D side scrolling fans or gamers who enjoyed titles like Pandemonium on PS2 will probably have the most fun with it. If this is not you, you may want to rent it next time your mother is out and not invite the Cat to hang around permanently.    


Gameplay: 7.4

The Cat in the Hat is basically a 2-D platformer in a 3-D world. All of the movement is left – right rails only even with a lot of depth variation and some spiral tracks without much variation, and the majority of the gameplay is the typical platform hopping, secret searching, box smashing style that we’ve seen before. The levels were decent in both size and creativity, but it does tend to get a bit repetitive since every stage regardless of background or hazards is the same thing from start to finish. Even with things to unlock like bonus stages and character / movie shots from the film, there may not be much of a need to go back and replay stages or the game over again a second time.


Graphics: 7.1
The graphics are pretty colorful and fun looking, and the backgrounds, characters, and enemies are good representation of the kind of weird things that we’ve seen in the Dr. Seuss books. While the main characters like Quinn, the Cat, and the kids are all actual computer converted footage, many of the objects are made up of only a few colors and don’t have too much lighting or any other kinds of effects to try and add to them.


Sound: 7.4
The voiceovers are sound-alikes of the actual players from the film. The music has a bubbly, Beetlejuice kind of feel to it in the comical, Cat in the Hat fashion you’d probably expect.


Difficulty: Easy
While the stages can be somewhat challenging as you progress, a lot of gamers (especially platforming fans) will probably be able to run through this a matter of a couple of days. It’s fun, but isn’t going to provide too much of a challenge for players overall.


Concept: 7.6
I am definitely a big fan of giving credit where credit is due, and Vivendi did a good job in bringing a game to life that personally I would have never thought of. Some variation in the game like some 3-D worlds or something would have added to the fun and taken some repetition out of it though.


Overall: 7.2
Fans of Dr Seuss, the Cat in the Hat, and 2-D side scrolling platform titles will ultimate get the most enjoyment out of this. If you happen to be a big platform gaming fan looking to try the Cat out, you may want to check this one out at your local game rental store prior to purchasing.



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