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Tom and Jerry Tales

Score: 75%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Sensory Sweep
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Racing/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

I grew up watching Tom and Jerry and the other classic cartoons on TV. This was before Cartoon Network, so kids had to be fairly industrious about scheduling their time to catch all the relevant comics on whatever channel. I'm so drawn to these characters for some reason. Quite a few of the hot cartoons today for kids are either fantasy human characters or really out-there animals doing human things. There are some good robot and sci-fi cartoons also. Tom and Jerry Tales takes us back to a simpler equation: cat chases mouse... mouse runs away... hi-jinks ensue. Why this formula got so much mileage is hard to say but it doesn't do much to make this game great.

The look and feel of Tom and Jerry Tales comes very close to resembling the classic animation style of the show. The cel-shaded effect isn't especially accurate, since I think of that style as coming more from anime or more recent Western animation. At least the quality of the visual design in the game is strong. There is equal quality in the music and sound which both play a big role in the "feel" of the game. There is some great, old-timey music that plays during slower-paced moments and more frantic sounds during the bulk of the game. Today we'd call some of this music "lounge" but when the show was on TV the first time, they would have just called it "jazz." There are nicely done sound effects that accompany actions during the game like breaking glass or heavy, falling objects. If you've ever watched Tom and Jerry, you know these two things happen with incredible frequency.


Gameplay:

It's hard to categorize Tom and Jerry Tales, but it's not hard to describe what is wrong with the game. My background as a gamer goes back to the late seventies and I can say with some pride that I've played many of the harder games both in the "twitch" category and in the strategy department. So it is with some surprise that I find myself stuck trying to beat Tom and Jerry Tales. I'm a gracious guy, so I assume at first it's my problem. Reading the manual several times and practicing produced slightly better results but then I just lost interest. It's a shame, because the premise of the game is great.

The goal of Tom and Jerry Tales is to get the cat kicked out of the house. You'll do this by playing as the mouse and leading the cat into ruckus after ruckus until the mistress of the house decides it's time for the cat to go. This is executed with a combination of combat-racing gameplay and triggered events or mini-games. Imagine a kart racer combined with a compilation of touch-screen mini-games... It does sound fun and it could have been more fun if the execution was not so awkward. Each level is made up of several challenges that you must tackle to move forward. There are general challenges that result in clearing one of several levels in the house where Tom and Jerry Tales takes place. There are also timed attack modes and those where the goals of the race are slightly different. The main mode involves "touch time" events that are the mini-games I mentioned. Completing these successfully results in some mayhem that takes the cat one step closer to being kicked to the curb. Messing these up may result in being captured and restarting the level.

The mini-games alone would be fun since they make use of the DS technology nicely and show off some nice animation done for the game. The racing alone would be fun since it involves some jumping and gathering items, not to mention blasting things around the house with some combat-racing mechanics. Combining the two makes for some terrible gameplay. Holding the stylus and trying to push every button on the DS, then trying to make it to the touch-screen in time to initiate a mini-game... it's just too much. The mechanics make Tom and Jerry Tales way too cumbersome. Hard is one word, but the individual pieces of the game aren't hard. It's poorly planned, plain and simple.


Difficulty:

The mini-games require quick response and come smack in the middle of the racing action. My rate on completing the mini-games was maybe 50%, so I died a lot and had to restart the level. After pressing buttons, tapping the touch-screen and rubbing it I was just about done. If the developers had paced this game better and put more thought into how players would end up in knots trying to jump back and forth, Tom and Jerry Tales might have looked very different. I could just not get my head around the switching back and forth since both styles of play are fairly challenging.

Game Mechanics:

The racing levels require some jumping and speed control, plus you have to use the touch-screen to shoot objects you collect as household items. The goal may have been to recreate the mayhem of the show, but the mayhem ended up on my lap as I was trying to play this game. Not easy and not worth the struggle. There are speed controls assigned to buttons and the D-pad, so that left- and right-handed players are equally capable of playing. The truth is that it would have been smarter to assign some things differently and just create a "left or right" choice in the options. Instead there are jumping controls on the shoulder buttons and you have to hold on to the stylus for when the mini-games come up. Obstacles in the game can be avoided to some extent but others you have to jump. You collect items during the race and fire them off using the touch-screen. When you bump into something that has mini-game potential (which you know because it has a special aura), the screen switches and you have about 1-3 seconds to complete your touch/tap/rub action. The animation then plays differently depending on your success or failure. I really do like this idea, but it would be better to lead into these games by even a few more seconds to give the player time to adjust the stylus. Or, it would have been better to play these mini-games before the racing action starts so you could focus on the racing and then watch the mini-game animations separately.

Ah well... I'm not a game designer or creator, so I can rightly shut up about all the great ways to improve Tom and Jerry Tales. I'm just the guy who plays the game off the shelf and makes the call based on what's there or not there. What's here is a neat idea that doesn't cut the mustard for gameplay. Pure and simple, if you aren't as fanatical about playing a Tom and Jerry game as Tom is about catching Jerry, you will get a serious headache playing Tom and Jerry Tales. Better luck next time, guys.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Windows Eragon Sony PlayStation 2 Superman Returns

 
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