My parents felt that computers weren’t intended for games, so I wasn’t allowed to buy or ask for any PC games when I was a kid. Educational games were an exception here and that led me to playing Redcat as well as The Great Green Mouse Disaster. I don’t even really know how we came to own this game, but I loved playing it a lot and was sad when I one day lost my copy. I don’t know if some jerk friend stole my disc or if it got thrown out; it was just gone one day and I had never managed to finish it.
This would not do, so I found a new copy and put a lot of effort into getting it to run properly in a virtual machine. I was determined to complete this childhood memory of mine!
30 minutes later… I was done. Glorious success.
This game is actually a video game adaptation of a children’s activity book by Swiss illustrator Philippe Dupasquier. Kids had to help out the staff of a hotel with finding and capturing a troupe of musician mice that had escaped and were now hidden in the rooms of a hotel in which they had to perform.
What we have here is a game that takes Philippe’s drawings and has brought them to life, creating a classy cartoon that plays a bit like a Humongous Entertainment game. Players are greeted by the hotel’s cat and told the story of how the green mice escaped, after which they are handed a sensor with which they scan the layout of the hotel. Each room is a level, but you must find out which one has been randomly selected to house the next mouse.
The levels themselves are beautiful. Each room is richly detailed and comedic, with its occupants usually busy with some silly activity. One of the most amusing levels is this pigsty of a room where the owner has fallen asleep with a cola and drumstick still in his hands. The visuals are clearly directed at kids and everything operates on cartoon logic, yet the visual style of Phillipe’s drawings is very stylish and formal. It creates a sensation where kids feel entertained, yet it also stands out and feels significant; it isn’t pandering to them so directly, unlike the competing cartoons available on TV.
I drew comparisons to Humongous’ output earlier and that comes into play through how you capture the mice. You look around the room and click on all the objects, cabinets, and other potential hiding spots, which cause little animations to play out. If the mouse was hiding there, it will go running across the room trying to locate a new spot and you have to chase after it with the cursor. Click on the mouse (with your mouse) and it’ll be captured, after which the porter walks in with a net. This usually kickstarts a little disaster with which we say goodbye to that room of the hotel. Often literally, as the entire room is wrecked in the process.
The core gameplay here is really fun and finding the mice is reasonably challenging. The 3 difficulty options determine their speed while fleeing from you, but you have to find their hiding spot first before the chase even starts. The rooms are full of objects that look relevant and interactive, which can be a red herring. Sometimes a drawer that looks like it’s part of the background might open up when clicked. Sometimes rooms are littered with objects that look like fun hiding spots, only for the mouse to turn up in a giant wardrobe that you just ignored because it didn’t look suspicious. You really end up clicking on everything unless you luck out and find the mouse early on. As a neat bit of help, the mouse will move on its own if the player really can’t find it after several minutes of play.
After catching a mouse, players go to a storage room where they must find out what instrument the mouse wants to play. This is a mediocre part of the game and one where I feel improvement would have been easy. The only way to find out what a mouse wants to play is by clicking everything until you find it, with wrong answers playing a fun animation. Why not make this a learning moment by giving players a hint about the instrument? I don’t know what these are called, so I’d be learning. Instead, the hotel cat spouts one of 5 jokes every time, all of which were kind of awkward and unfunny. I honestly didn’t even get what some of these were on about.
That is basically the loop the game of the game until you captured all the mice and united the band. The final level is the dingy attic where you can switch between several, small rooms and the mouse will be faster than anywhere else. Every time it escapes, you have to switch rooms again and won’t know which of the hiding spots it picked that time. All in all, this makes it a game you can finish easily in half an hour, so I recommend the highest difficulty to prolong your time with the game and reduce the likelihood you’ll finish a level in less time than it takes to load.
There were definitely ways to improve the game, but it captivated me as a kid and impressed me as an adult. The art is really something else and the core gameplay of catching mice works very well as an entry-level PC game. I was also impressed with the sound-design, as each room has its own fantastic theme as it loads in, before switching to just diegetic sound-effects once gameplay starts proper. It’s difficult to run, but if you’re an enthusiast for old PC games or old school Windows operating systems, then absolutely give this one a try.