There’s a part of me that wants so badly to give this game a pass, because “Eek! The Cat” was something I enjoyed watching in my pre-high school days. None dare call it groundbreaking, but “Eek! The Cat” was an enjoyable way to kill twenty minutes, and managed to attract an awful lot of celebrity guest talent.
But if I give this game a pass simply because I enjoyed the cartoon which spawned it, I’d have to turn in my Gamer card. And you can have my Gamer card when you surgically remove it from my cold, dead, boastfully-exaggerated testicles. So if you’re down, my balls have an opening this coming Thursday for a “Hardcore, Falls-Count-Anywhere” Pay-Per-View. Call my editor, he’ll set the whole thing up and provide notice to your next-of-next-of-kin.
Where was I?
Right, Eek! The Cat. You gotta give props to a guy whose go-to phrase is, “It never hurts to help!” If more people in this world had that kind of attitude, whoever discovered patchouli would be remembered in the same breath with the likes of “the first guy to plant hemp”, “the first guy to smoke out”, and “like, the lead singer of Phish, man,”. But the humor of Eek’s existence comes from the world conspiring to unload a BP underwater pipeline-level of shit on him every time he tries to do the right thing.
You know how it is: you stop to help some guy carry in his groceries from the car, then suddenly there’s a bomb going off in your underpants, you’re kidnapped by an insane German doctor, and Steven Seagal is using you for a joint dislocation demonstration dummy. This is a cartoon aimed at completely undermining a premise parents had been striving to pound into the skulls of their yard apes for fifteen years. Good one, Fox Kids!
The game does a commendable job in translating this helpful philosophy to the Super Nintendo, but that’s not a compliment. Eek! The Cat is nothing more than six levels of the one thing #gamers hate more than Zoe Quinn: the dreaded escort mission.
You heard me: six friggin’ levels of granny-kicking, fish-slapping, hamburger-hunting, AI-cursing escort mission. Damn, Ocean, you’re one stone-cold developer throwing something like this at kids! Not even Battletoads stooped to that level to inflate its difficulty to “Nintendo Hard” levels.
But that’s not the worst sin committed by this game. Frankly, if Eek! The Cat had been the result of a developer sitting down to watch the show and thinking, “Well, it’s all about a cat getting shafted repeatedly while helping people, so let’s build a game around that mechanic”, I could let this rest. But I can’t. The worst sin Eek! The Cat commits is not anger, it’s sloth.
Maybe you’ve heard of a game called Sleepwalker? It was developed by Ocean, one year before Eek! The Cat, and it featured an animated dog named Ralph who has to guide a sleepwalking boy through hazard-filled levels.
Eek! The Cat is the exact same game with swapped sprites. I’ve heard stories of how companies were working on developing a game, wound up with a licensing deal in the middle of the dev cycle, and decided to shoehorn the license into that game no matter how awful the fit. Supposedly this is why Predator on the NES has precisely fuck-all to do with the film, but it’s understandable to a degree, especially if the terms of your license agreement hinge on releasing the game within, say, six months.
But for some reason, Ocean’s re-texturing of Eek! The Cat just irritates me more. Sure, it’s work drawing new spirites and re-animating the title sequence, but getting paid to re-develop a game you already released a year earlier? When EA pulls that bullshit with the Madden franchise, everybody in the world calls them out on it. Because they’re EA and thus “too big to fail”, they don’t care, but it’s still valid criticism. “Oh, our snow looks better in this release, we added reflection effects to the helmets, and we updated the player roster!” doesn’t warrant a new $60 purchase by anybody. It’s lazy, plain and simple, and for that reason alone, I cannot give Eek! The Cat a pass.
I’m serious about next Thursday though. Mark your calendars.