Alley Cat

Ah, Alley Cat. A classic in the collective memory. Many people remember this game, and it was also one of my early favorites. What’s not to like about the life of an alley tomcat, jumping on garbage bins, sneaking into houses to eat birds, fish and dog food, and trying to find a mate? We play the heroes we want to be. Forget Duke Nukem, Commander Shepard or Lara Croft. I want to be an alley cat. Alley Cat is a game by Bill Williams and published for PC in 1984 by IBM.

Title screen

While reading this post, I would suggest you go to Alley Cat’s Wikipedia page where (at the time of posting) the theme song is available for listening. I love it.

The game starts in the alley, where Mr. Cat tries to enter a window giving access to an apartment while avoiding dogs, tossed garbage and mouses. Once inside, a random minigame is chosen and the cat has to try to eat mouses, catch a bird or various other objectives. Each minigame also contains a window back out, which the player can (accidentally or deliberately) use to abort a minigame. Another great part of each minigame is the broomstick that sweeps the level. It does not kill the player, but it will knock him around which can cause various bad things to happen such as being thrown back out. However, the broom can temporarily be kept busy by making footprints on the floor. In my opinion, the brooms are a remarkable piece of game design, providing both some form of planning and urgency to the minigames. In some situations, the broom can even be used to deliberately catapult the cat around the room, in the hope of getting to a hard-to-reach spot.

Catch that bird!

Once the minigame task has been fulfilled, our cat hero can now fulfill his utmost desire: be with a girly cat! To do this, he again has to enter a window, but now the minigame is always the same. Catboy has to jump up across a series of levels made of hearts, meanwhile avoiding the broken hearts and the rival cats. When he reaches the upper level, he gives his present to the love interest and then madness ensues. The score multiplier (groan) goes up and the difficulty increases and the game starts over in the alley.

The best metaphor of the game

Mad love, sweet love

My opinion of this game should be pretty clear by now. It’s a true classic of PC gaming. It’s fun, cute and (relatively) replayable. It won’t keep you busy for hours at an end, but for 10 minute breaks, this is quite fun. 9/10! A good remake (like Prince of Persia Classic to the original PoP) on something like the XBLA would certainly sell a lot. Someone make it please.

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