Hello and welcome to Retro Freak Reviews, where we take a look at PC games from the 80s and 90s and today we’re going to take a look at my (and several people’s) 1st PC game: Alley Cat for DOS.
Alley Cat was created in 1983 by Bill Williams, based on a concept by John D. Harris and originally published by Synapse Software for the Atari 8-bit computers and one year later published by IBM for the MS-DOS.
But before taking a look at the game, let’s take a look at the box art. Unfortunately, my version of the game came in a simple floppy disk containing several games, which was offered to me when my dad bought me my very first PC. So instead, let’s look at the cover of the Atari version a friend of mine sent me:
As one can see, this cover shows what the game is about: a lonely black cat against the injustices of modern society. Actually, it’s just a collection of mini-games. And this cat must be the most hated animal around because look at the faces of the people in the windows! Come on, the poor thing is hanging in there for his life! Have some sympathy!
And I just love the title screen and its tune. Check it out!
Even on a PC speaker, this little tune is great! And the title screen is quite nice, with the top score and everything as graffiti. Better than having the title of the game over a black background.
Aaaaaand speaking about black backgrounds, check out the menu screen. It’s pretty basic, with the joystick configuration and the difficulty levels, which I have to admit, naming them after cat names is just adorable.
According to the game description, you control a black cat named Fred and you have to climb trash cans, then a fence, and then hang on clotheslines with mice (who chew on the clotheslines) while avoiding a dog and objects thrown out through the open windows. And your objective is to get inside one of those windows.
In each window, there’s one of the several mini-games waiting for you. My favourite ones are the giant cheese room and the one with the fishbowl. I mean, look at the size of that cheese! And you have to get the mice that live inside it! Holy Cheddar, Batman!
The other mini-games are also pretty good, especially the one with a room full of sleeping dogs, in which the cat has to eat all the food in the bowls WITHOUT waking the dogs. Easier said than done!
And after winning one of these mini-games, you end back in the alley, but now, each window that opens, shows a white female cat calling you out. Cat-calling you, if you will.
So again you climb on the trash cans, the fence and the clotheslines to enter one of the opening windows, but this time you enter the pinkest and the heartiest thing I have ever seen in my life. Several rows of hearts surrounded by cherubs shooting arrows. Man, even Liberace would say to take it down a notch!
The objective here is to reach the top kitten (aptly named Felicia) while avoiding the other cats, the arrows and the broken hearts. Fortunately, you can use a present to offer to one of the cats on your path up. And if you fall through the bottom row, Felicia insults you and you end up back in the alley. But if you get to Felica, she kisses you and somehow this causes an explosion of hearts in your computer screen. Not even a St. Valentine’s parade has these many hearts!
And then you go back to the alley again, but notice how the setup of the alley changed and you also have gained an extra life. This means you have restarted the game but at a higher difficulty level.
This is known as arcade-style gaming, where you play until all your lives run out. This game has around 30 difficulty levels and basically continues indefinitely until you reach the game over. These types of games basically have no end. Depending on how good you are, you can play until you’re tired of it.
So, did this game aged well or not? Graphically speaking, and although the sprites and the animations are ok, the CGA graphics didn’t age well.
The gameplay is still pretty solid and believe it or not, this game was programmed to analyse your computer’s speed and run accordingly to it. Yes, you can run this game on a Pentium PC without using any CPU slowing program. Now that’s impressive! And luckily, you can try it on the Internet Archive.
There was even a fan-made sequel called Alley Cat 2, which is more or less the original game but with better graphics, more colours and even some new mini-games, but not as well animated. And recently a remake called Alley Cat: Remeow Edition has been released for Windows.
But back to the original game: Alley Cat is a fun little game, easy to get into and just perfect if you want to kill one or two minutes of your time, but don’t want to play anything more complex.
And that was my first Retro Freak Review. How do you think it was? If you liked it, share it and leave your comments below or even a suggestion for future reviews.
Well, see you guys around and remember to keep on playing!