Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat – PC – Review

The famous Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat has recently been released in a movie rendition featuring real actors. From what I’ve seen of the previews, it looks like a remake similar to The Grinch, which in my opinion was a horrible desecration of Dr. Seuss. I just don’t think you can successfully portray the world of Dr. Seuss in any other format besides animation. But can it work in a computer game?

The Cat in the Hat game is based on the recent movie, and features the same characters as portrayed by Alec Baldwin, Mike Myers, Kelly Preston and the rest of the cast. Although the main characters are real people that have been digitalized, the backgrounds and other objects like enemies and collectibles are all imaginary. This approach captures the essence of Dr. Seuss much better than the movie appears to, and the result is actually quite good.

The story is pretty innocuous: Mr. Quinn has let loose the magic in the box, transforming the house into a collection of magical worlds scattered throughout the house. He’s taken the lock from the crate and vanished into one of these crazy worlds, and the Cat has to search each room to find Mr. Quinn, get the lock back and return the house to its normal state.

Players control the Cat as he moves around the house in a platform style game, collecting magical circles and other items that help him advance through the game. The platforming aspect is extremely easy, and the movement across the screen is pre-determined on the individual ledges; players only have to press the arrow key for right or left, and don’t have to worry about falling off the edge unless they’re trying to jump from one ledge to another. Jumping is also very easy, and mostly involves bouncing off trampolines or being flung upwards by mini-tornados.

The Cat can also use his umbrella to glide across ledges. This umbrella is very handy, and the Cat makes good use of it. He can glide with it, use it as a shield, pound items by bouncing downwards, and blow bubbles with it. The bubbles are used defensively, and can capture enemy creatures inside for more powerful weapons.

Besides collecting the magical circles, which are needed to build up the Cat’s magic in order to move from room to room, the Cat will also collect cake pieces for health points, and four keys per room from Thing 1 and Thing 2 (no, I don’t know how Things 1 & 2 are suddenly four things holding four keys now), which will open up a bonus level in each room. These bonus levels offer about the same type of gameplay as the regular levels.

There is some strategy involved, in requiring players to go back and retrieve needed items to either activate machines, open objects or clear paths. But, the paths are always pointed out by arrows, and it’s never hard to figure out where to go next.

The keyboard is the only method of control offered, a gamepad isn’t an option, at least not that we could find. The actions and movements are pretty simple, and as the enemies move slowly, kids won’t be penalized for having to take time to remember which keys do what action. Still, we would have preferred using a gamepad over the keyboard.

The game is really colorfully animated, and the action is silly and fun. Kids won’t have to worry about dying (which can happen, but not often, and handy “checkpoints” scattered throughout the levels ensure players don’t have to restart at the beginning) or fighting endless baddies or bosses. The many things the Cat can do with his umbrella is incorporated into the game very nicely, and the movement of the Cat around the levels is pure fun, with items like trampolines for bouncing, and rockets that zoom him around to different levels.

There are many levels to work through, and kids will enjoy going back and running through the levels again to get more points from collectibles or to find all the keys for the bonus levels. The action is interesting and well-designed, and the animation is superb. The only drawback to this game is the lack of mini-games – the bonus levels should have been varied types of mini-games, instead of the same type of platforming as the regular levels. This game is also available on the PS2 and the Xbox, if kids would prefer using a gamepad for a controller, but the PC version is cheaper.

This is a kid’s game, and as such, is easy to play. The designers did a great job keeping the focus on the intended audience, with easy, yet interesting gameplay. The vibrant colors and fantastical creatures really add to the game, too. As it is designed for a young market, older gamers will find it a bit too easy. Best for ages eight-twelve.

Gameplay: 8
A fun, easy action game for kids! The levels, while interesting, do tend to be very similar to each other, and mini-games would definitely have added to the flavor, but still a good effort.

Graphics: 8 
The animation is very bright and vivid, and attractive to children. The backgrounds are a little pixelated, but the kids won’t care.

Sound: 8
Really catchy music adds to the fun!

Difficulty: Easy
Definitely an easy game, one that is better for younger or inexperienced gamers.

Concept: 7 
While an engaging game, the content isn’t anything above the ordinary, except in presentation.

Overall: 8
An entertaining children’s action platformer, and one that won’t frustrate needlessly. The gameplay is simple, yet varied enough to keep their attention. Kids will enjoy this game, and parents will enjoy watching them have fun.