Despite their real-life popularity, cats don’t frequently make for good video game protagonists. Perhaps because they’re all the chaotic evil sort. When I was browsing old home computer titles, my eyes fell on a game called Caesar the Cat, and I wondered if this old game could have found the key to turning a cat into a video game hero. The result? Not quite. In fact, you’re probably better off with ol’ Bubsy.
Caesar the Cat does set some realistic ambitions by making its feline character do the one thing real-life cats are at least marginally useful for: Caesar has to catch mice. There is a big table full of valuable items and foods, little vermin is nibbling away at it, so Caesar has to intercept them and dispose of their rotting corpses afterwards.
The mice randomly appear on the table and begin eating away at the food, so you rush Caesar over and grab the mice by touching them. On the C64 version, you need to then move the mice to a room off-screen, whereas on the ZX Spectrum the kill immediately counts. Complicating the matter are the contents of the table. Knocking any of the silverware, vases, and whatnot from the table will take a big bite out of your timer, often ending matches nearly immediately, even if there is still food left.
You need to balance your attempt to catch the mice with careful maneuvering to avoid breaking things, which isn’t as fair or fun as it sounds. Collision on the items is strict, but the game still expects you to inch right up to them in order to catch some mice. The catching itself is also not a fun mechanic, as the critters just instantly spawn and despawn at will. There is no strategy to it, you just have to hope that the game will randomly decide to keep them in place for long enough.
The graphic for the table is quite nice on both versions, but I would recommend playing the Commodore edition for the better controls, hit-detection, and less ugly clashes as sprites overlap each other. A shame, because the Spectrum version has the nicer table lay-out and doesn’t bother you with delivering the mice off-screen. Neither version has much staying power, though. Most gamers will bore of the game quickly and be left with little reason to look back.
At least the box makes for an adorable addition to any collector’s shelf.