reviews\ Feb 6, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Tom and Jerry In War of the Whiskers - PS2 - Review

How many times have you heard or said “Geez … I feel old”? Lately, all of these game remakes of things that I grew up with have made me start feeling this way. Pac Man is now a 3-D yellow ball who does everything but the dishes, and Donkey Kong and Mario play 3-D board games together. In similar light, cartoons have evolved into things which are more based on “summon the dragon from a card and trap it in a ball to enter a digital world”, which is different from what I grew up with. Even Transformers went computer graphics on me for crying out loud with Beast Wars! Well, I am still happy to say that Cartoon Network airs some “classic” programming that people my age can appreciate. One that I always find time to sit down and watch is Tom and Jerry. This was fun, because it centered on an easy to understand concept and was loaded with hilarious and “cartoon violent” mischief. NewKidCo has hit the market with Tom & Jerry : War of the Whiskers for PS2, and has captured much of what made the show so great into a decent and fast paced game.


If you’ve never seen the game before, you may be thinking that the set up is some kind of platformer or something, since the majority of titles that I seem to see on shelves based around cartoons go that direction. That may just be me, but everything from Casper to Disney seems to be more of a platform jumping experience than anything else, minus some exceptions here and there. T&J instead opts for a fighting game setup instead, which is not only unique for what it’s based on, but also is pretty darned fun on top of it. The concept is simple … pick a character from the show in either single or tag team match up, then beat the heck out of each other until someone is left standing in one of the various arenas based on locales from the cartoon. Typical fighting game plot overall, but there are some differences.


Starting off, you pick from one of the game’s four modes of Challenge, Single Player, Tag team, or Tag Versus. Challenge has you play as either Tom or Jerry and progress through 5 levels and a final boss, and will unlock new characters to use in this or the other modes. Single player pits you against the CPU or a friend in a single bout, and Tag is of course tagging another character controlled by you or the CPU to fight against two opponents. The characters themselves that you can select from are straight from TV, and there are very recognizable ones like Spike and Tyke the father / son bulldog team, and Butch, who was Tom’s black furred alley cat buddy who sometimes came around and caused trouble. Controls are tight for the most part, and easy to hop right into. 


As we all know, most fighting games like Tekken or Capcom stuff are all based on a single fighting arena or platform. The levels in T&J instead are filled with things like counter tops, buildings, vending machines, and a various assortment of other things to jump on and run around on to give you a little more opportunity for movement, escape, or getting above your opponent. In addition, the environment is also fully destructible, and knocking your foe into a sign, window, or any other area usually results in a satisfying shatter or crash and debris falling out, not to mention a damaged environment. After a certain amount of time battling, you can quickly turn even a nice kitchen into a disaster area.


Another thing that NewKidCo did here is add a bunch of interactive items and occasional powerups that can be used as weapons into the play area. Some are obvious … like maces, planks, and monkey wrenches, but hey … this is based on a cartoon. You can also grab and lob furniture, car parts, books, sea animals, food, and a various assortment of other items at your opponent. Some will also do additional damage, like candlesticks that will light an enemy’s rear end on fire when used as a jousting weapon. Many environments contain their own weaponry to hurl your opponent into also, like electric fields, iced floors (The T&J episode where Jerry and Nibbles use the fridge and a stopped up sink to turn the kitchen into an ice rink), and circling sharks.


Now, a lot of the things that were done in the game are really good, but some can act as a double-edged sword as well. First off, this game is all about action … pure and simple. Stopping at any time to try and develop a comprehensible strategy will usually leave you on your tail end or getting smacked by a flying whatever, so you have to keep running, hitting, running, and throwing until you or your opponent is done. This is good for a lot of gamers who are looking for this style of fighting and speed, but for you Tekken or Virtua Fighter style folks out there, it just may not be deep enough for long time enjoyment.


Secondly, to it’s credit, T&J really focuses on hitting a pretty broad audience and looked to make a game that anyone can pick up and get into without having to memorize 9,000 button hit combos and what not. One button punches, one kicks, one blocks, one grabs or catches items, and L2 / R2 trigger a berserk mode when a meter fills up which creates super speed, strength, or even flight depending on the character. Hitting the punch button over and over again results in three hit combos, same as the kick button, so kids and the fighting game challenged shouldn’t have any problem jumping in and just playing … true enough. The downside to this of course is in the repetitive fighting and lack of combos or counters that many fighting game fans pride themselves on memorizing, and ultimately may cause it to be seen as shallow by some, which was not the intention but could be the result here.


Lets talk about difficulty for a moment, shall we? The AI in T&J is sharp, regardless of what difficulty setting you have it on, and even your first opponent will give you one heck of a battle to get him down. While you will get used to it and learn when to strike and when to run, it has a curve to it that won’t allow a lot of folks to master it immediately. The challenge is there, so don’t think that you can waltz in and just start beating someone into oblivion. Unfortunately, this may also cause some aggravated or upset kids out there after not being able to beat the first level after the third or fourth try, and may wind up in some thrown controllers … which happened here at my house once or twice. 


Lastly, the camera itself works pretty good overall, and is stationary in view but will zoom in and out as you move away or closer together. It didn’t cause and major headaches, but objects or the environment itself sometimes got in the way and I couldn’t see what was going on until I ran somewhere else.


Graphically, the game looks pretty good. It is brightly colored and the environments contain a lot of cartoon looking detail to them The characters and their movements were done to specs with the show, and are well animated for the most part. They also included some little things from TV, like flattening out on the floor when belly flopped or hit with a mallet or shovel or whatnot. As I stated before, the environments will show damage when hit or someone is thrown into them, and the additional effects like roaming ghosts or lightning flashes were done well. During some of the more graphically intense parts of some stages, there is some obvious slowdown that isn’t horribly annoying … but it is present. There is also some minor collision detection when moving from one level to another if in mid swing, but that’s more me being nitpicky than something that will take away from the experience overall. 


The sound in T&J is made up of the things that you would expect to hear from a game based on the cartoon show, like splats, crashes and zipping noises. The music is a nifty little “swing style” kind of melody, but sounds like it was set on a repeat loop while you are playing. It’s not bad or aggravating, but does get forgotten or ignored after playing for a while.


Overall, NewKidCo definitely surprised and impressed me with this one, only because TV to game (or vice versa) translations don’t always work out and usually don’t fair too well in the gaming world. In addition, it was nice to see a fighting game that is not Tekken or Capcom or whatever which was fun to play and family friendly on top of that. You may pass this one off as another “kid style” cartoon game, but you owe it to yourself to at least give it a rental if you are a fan of fighting games or the Tom and Jerry cartoon like me. You never know … you may be surprised as well. 


Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.2
The controls are simple and easy to get into, and the game contains enough modes and unlockable characters to keep you playing for a little bit. The fighting consists of one button presses to get combos off, which is good for some but may not be good for veterans of other titles that enjoy a more strategic or combo based fighting style. To it’s credit, it is constantly moving and definitely won’t have you just sitting around waiting for your opponent to make a move since they do it constantly.


Graphics: 7.1
Overall, the game looks good and was presented well. The destructible environments and added touches to the levels like electricity and even a car smasher were done well, and the characters themselves remain faithful in size and look to the TV show. There is some very minor and hardly noticeable collision detection at times, and areas where a lot is going on can result in some slowdown. 


Sound: 7.1
The sounds from the game are decent renditions of sounds that you would expect to hear in the cartoon itself and have the same comic flare that they did back in the day. The music is a well done swing style / big band kind of sound, but seems a little looped on places and tends to bland into the background after playing for a period of time.


Difficulty: Medium
The game contains three different difficulty settings, but overall is pretty challenging regardless of what you have it set on. While it’s easy to pick up and get into for most people of any age out there, it will probably require a few attempts to really get it down and get good with it.


Concept: 7.8
Overall, it is a fun and unique way of presenting a game based on a cartoon that is not another platform style game, and the multi leveled stages and objects were a neat add in. There were some things that could have been done a little better, but it turned out to be a good and fun title in my opinion.


Multiplayer: 7.2
The multiplayer is fun, but having the ability to play with four people on four controllers at once would have been great. It’s still a good way to spend a family friendly afternoon of gaming with the kids and will provide some good enjoyment.


Overall: 7.1
If you happen to be a fan of fighting games from the DC era like Power Stone, or some of the fighting based stages from games like Fusion Frenzy on Xbox, this is a fun game which reminds me of them to an extent and is at the very least worth a rental. Due to the fact that it’s not as deep or strategic as other popular 3-D fighters out there, some of you Tekken or MK gurus may not find it to be detailed enough for your liking. Although it got a teen rating for comic mischief, feel free to buy it for kids of older gamers alike since everything that happens is all comical, Saturday morning cartoon stuff, and thanks to NewKidCo for the fun game that keeps true to what I grew up with.



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