Review: Mouse Trap (Atari ST)

Equipment Used/Recommended

  • MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator.
  • Speedlink USB Joystick

My Review

So we’re doing a few non-ST Format reviews as well as going back to some older reviews and redoing them with accompanying videos – we’ll also be looking at other formats rather than just the Atari ST. I expect these to come out on Mondays.

Ok we’ll ignore the crap dragon, the mouse looks pretty well-drawn

Mouse Trap is one of those cheap games your parents will have picked up having no idea what it was. Certainly that’s how I came to acquire it. In theory it should be absolutely terrible, after all it’s a game that would look perfectly at home on an 8-bit machine with only the higher resolution really giving it away. There’s no scrolling, the chip music is awful and the jump is terrible (a crime for any platformer). So why the hell do I like it?

My tail touched the plant and I died

Some of it will undoubtedly be nostalgia. My dad wasn’t a particularly pleasant bloke, a violent drunk who avoided prison by luck rather than judgement given his tendency not to pay for things. Still, this game and Mad Professor Mariarti were the brief bit of quality time we ever had in between avoiding him because he was drunk again. Still, there’s more to it than that.

I collected all the balloons, now I’m heading for the exit

The graphics are nothing special on a technical level but they’re well-drawn, and franjly it’s remarkable that they’re so well-drawn when you see how bad the Commodore 64 version looks:

Thanks random internet person for this C64 footage

The ST version is at least a clear upgrade from the C64 which wasn’t always a given. In truth the artwork was lovely, even if it was on a flat single-colour background. The sprites move quickly and smoothly around the screen, probably because there weren’t many demands being made on the ST. Enemies are well-designed and well-animated and there’s a lovely little death animation.

Here I’m collecting Christmas puddings. Don’t ask why. The teacup, plant and snail are all deadly.

I mentioned before that the jumping was terrible and perhaps I should explain. It’s one of those games where your motion is fixed when you jump, true to real life physics perhaps but generally unwelcome in a platform game. It is however at least a fire button jump. Worse still, walking off the edge of a platform sends you not down vertically but off in a diagonal like you’ve jumped off. And yet there is actually a good reason for this. Many of the puzzles driving the levels (and this is very much a puzzle platformer) are built around those limitations. Whether the limitations were a product of lazy developers and the level design followed from that or the developers had an idea that the limitations would allow some design creativity we will likely never know, but for whatever reason it works.

Here’s me completing a level to show I’m not totally hopeless

Collision detection is interesting. You can often be suspended on a platform by a single pixel of foot, and similarly you can die because your tail touched the plant. It’s brutal, but it is at least consistent and if it goes wrong you can’t blame anyone but yourself.

Bignose the bogeyman lies in wait as I try to collect all the fishbowls…

The chip music is gratingly awful. You will hate it. And then you’ll find yourself humming it.

Video

So I made a little video showing Mouse Trap in all it’s glory. Enjoy!

Verdict

… but he needn’t have bothered – one wrong jump and I’m dead.

Clearly there’s a personal connection to this game which makes it special to me in ways that it might not be for others, but by cold analysis this is actually a decent little game. It isn’t going to win any prizes for originality or technical merit, but it’s a game with charm, cleverly designed and with some lovely art. It’s no Super Mario World but it is a good time.

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