The minute gorgeous Halle
Berry steps out in her revealing Catwoman guise with the whip dangling close to
her hip in the trailer of the movie version, you just know she’s going to slap
around a few bad guys and look very good while doing it. As it turns out,
though, not even the lovely Miss Berry could save a lackluster movie. Still,
video games occasionally could take a bad concept and make it pretty fun and
this is what EA is hoping for in Catwoman for the Game Boy Advance. Does
it succeed in bringing us a fun action game? Let’s just say that the results
are less than, shall I say it, purr-fect?
is the tale of Patience Phillips, mild mannered concept designer for Hedare
Beauty, which is the world’s leader in cosmetics. Working late one night in the
Hedare main headquarters, Patience is asked to take her designs to the factory
where she stumbles upon a ghastly secret. It seems that their new Beau-Line
anti-aging product has an awful side effect that, if the secret got out, it
would ruin Hedare Beauty. A henchman suddenly discovers her presence and chases
Patience. Making the mistake of attempting to escape through a water tube, the
henchman releases a gusher of water that inevitably kills her. Washed up in the
shores outside the factory, a mystical Egyptian cat gives her a kiss and
Patience is brought back to life as somebody new–Catwoman. Now she’s out for
revenge and boy does this cat have claws.
Okay, so the story isn’t
incredibly deep or moving but Catwoman is about action and you’ll see
plenty of it on her quest to make those responsible for her death pay. The
game’s first level serves as a tutorial of sorts, revealing Catwoman’s basic
moves. She can easily scale walls just as quickly as Spider-Man and could move
stealthily on all fours when stealth is needed. Catwoman could also run along
the walls and swiftly swing from pole to pole much like in the Prince of
Persia: Sands of Time. Yes, she’s acrobatic and moves with feline poise.
All of this is executed easily on the GBA but it’s not without its share of
problems. Catwoman, unfortunately, features a dreadful camera that makes
climbing walls rather aggravating because it’s hard to judge distance. The
result is falling a lot and attempting to climb back up and trying the same
jumps again and again.
As far as combat is
concerned, Catwoman puts her trusty whip to good use and she can even earn new
whip tricks such as Tether Foe (wrap your whip around an enemy’s neck) and
Tether Object (wrap your whip around an object, like a trash can, and “throw”
said item at a foe). Catwoman is also skilled in Capoeira or a version of it
that’s almost feline in nature. She can spin and kick and punch in that style
and it would have been good had the targeting been less awkward and the camera
positioned well enough to tell if you’re facing close enough to make actual
contact. Often times you’re sending kicks to thin air and often times Catwoman
completely misses her mark only to play right into the enemy’s hands.
All is not bad, though,
because Catwoman–particularly the Game Boy Advance version–shows the
glimmer of hope you don’t really see in the console versions. For starters, the
GBA version doesn’t downplay its stealth moments. There are levels that have
Catwoman using the cover of darkness to get through areas without getting
discovered by guards. Her Cat Senses are also a bit more useful in this
version, as are Catwoman’s three Cat States. There’s Kitten Mode, Minx Mode and
Panther Mode and each increase Catwoman’s Power Mode to double damage done to
enemies. These things work relatively well but they aren’t able to help conceal
the flaws that bury what little good this game possesses.
though, the game looks amazing on the GBA. You’ll find that each location is
beautifully rendered and nicely detailed even though most of the game takes
place in the cover of darkness. There are also plenty of things Catwoman can
interact with in the game and watching her make use of them is pretty cool.
Catwoman herself is nicely detailed as well. Take a good look and you can even
make out the tears in her tight leather pants! She also performs some pretty
neat wall climbing tricks that give the illusion that you’re performing some
amazing cat-like feats.
There isn’t much in the
sound department but what’s there is decent enough. There’s a score and it
doesn’t grow repetitive and it does a good job of highlighting key moments
throughout the game. Yet when it comes to sound effects there isn’t anything
that stands out–there aren’t even any detailed environmental noises. Since the
story is told through comic book-styled panels, there are no voice work or even
sound bytes. What’s here is not bad, just not good either.
on the Game Boy Advance translates somewhat better than the console version but
it is still plagued by many of the flaws that keep this feline on an awfully
tight leash. Yes there are levels that are actually pretty fun and making
Catwoman perform acrobatic feats on the fly is a delight, but the awful camera
and awkward combat system will only force you to want to zip through this game
quickly. Do yourself a favor and borrow this one from a friend, otherwise stay
clear of it.
Aside from the fact that the levels
are designed with no other objectives than collect jewels and getting from Point
A to Point B, Catwoman mixes action with stealth and high-flying
acrobatics. Her Cat Senses are a real help and as is Power Mode that doubles
the damage done on enemies. While this is pretty good, its most glaring faults,
especially during combat, make this a lesson in frustration.
One of the prettiest games on the
GBA, Catwoman’s visuals reminds us that our beloved little handheld is
capable of some pretty impressive feats. The environments are nicely detailed
and there are plenty of things to interact with throughout the game. Watching
Catwoman strut her stuff and climb up walls much like a cat would is a pleasant
sight indeed. The cut scenes are made up of nicely rendered comic book-styled
drawings with the main character looking nothing like Halle Berry. In fact, not
one of the characters resembles the actors that portray them in the film. But
the nice detailed characters more than make up for that.
Aside from the sounds of the whips,
gunfire and enemy bashing, there’s no real audio treat here except for the nice
score. And while you won’t hear much from the characters themselves, you’ll
occasionally hear Catwoman belt out a sultry meow or playful purr.
Fancy Capoeira footwork and stylized
whip tricks give Catwoman an edge over thugs both armed and just plain tough.
Still, there isn’t anything that poses much of a real threat in terms of the
enemies you’ll face in this game. The enemies in the game aren’t exactly a
bright bunch, although they do respond well to sound while you’re in stealth
mode and the occasional armed goon proves to be a somewhat good shot. The
biggest challenge comes while wrestling with the camera during wall jumps.
Fighting evil cosmetics kingpins
might not sound like the worthy adversaries of a comic book hero and that is
part of the reason the film just didn’t work. Unfortunately, the game follows
the same storyline and thus makes for an uninteresting adventure. That’s too
bad since the character is likeable and her many abilities are impressive
on the GBA is, to quote Adam West’s Batman, a “cat-astrophe.” While it is
slightly better than the console versions already available, the same flaws
befall this version to the point that it holds the game back from being a fun
action-packed romp. There are some moments in the game that show a hint of
promise that would have made this game a treat and it possess some beautiful
visuals, but this isn’t enough to save this game.