Every Wednesday, we profile a forgotten or underappreciated game for our "Games Time Forgot" series.
Time travel. Not only does it make for an interesting plot device in games, but it's also been quite popular as a game mechanic as of late. In 2008, Braid was critically acclaimed for its time rewind and fast forwarding functions, among other things. Before that, games such as Blinx the Time Sweeper and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time made good use of similar mechanics. When speaking of time travel in gaming, these are usually the only examples to come to mind.
But first, let's take a closer look at the game itself and how it plays.
Like most games of its time, Catrap (which is simply a portmanteau of "cat" and "trap") had a bareboned story. The two playable characters, an unnamed boy and girl, were cursed with cat ears and tails prior to the start of the game. On top of that, they were thrown into a huge labyrinth filled with monsters. The only way that Catboy and Catgirl can change back into humans is to defeat every last monster in the maze. That alone doesn't sound like such a difficult challenge... except for the fact that your character can not jump. Granted, walking straight into enemies automatically punches them out, but it's getting to them that's the problem. There is almost always an obstacle or gap in the way that you cannot pass on your own. Enter Catrap's unique (for it's time, and heck, even today) puzzle system.
The most interesting aspect of the game play is the aforementioned time travel mechanic. Trial and error plays a big role in the puzzle solving method, so getting stuck in a place where you can't move is pretty much always an inevitability. This is where time travel comes into play. Whenever you need to undo anything you've previously done, holding down the A button will rewind time. The longer you hold it, the further back you can go. You can also redo the moves you've made with the B button. Unlike most other games with this mechanic, there is no limit to how many times it can be used. Rewinds can take you all the way back to the start of the room if needed.
As for why such a phenomenally great game was in the bargain bin among a throng of other unknown crappy ones, Asmik Corporation is most likely to blame. They were the company responsible for bringing Catrap to the US. They've never been a very well known name in games to begin with, but on top of that, most of their releases have been pretty weird and not very well recieved. It makes sense that the one time they localized something great, it went largely unnoticed. The game had a weird story, bad box art, and probably no marketing whatsoever. It's not very nice on the eyes or ears either; if you find yourself time traveling a lot, you're bound to become tired of the dingle-dingle-dingle-ding that accompanies it.
It's also got some great programming for its time. The rewind/fast forward buttons function almost exactly like Braid's, albeit a bit slower. It was an amazing discovery to find that such a mechanic existed over 20 years ago, and we're only just now seeing it being used a lot. The Prince, Blinx, and Tim may have made time travel a mainstream game mechanic, but the cat eared duo from Catrap just happen to be their grandfather and grandmother.
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