A Game Of Cat And Mechanical Mouse
HIGH Narrowly escaping a treacherous stretch of obstacles is thrilling.
LOW The risk/reward ratio for difficult collectables is not worth it.
WTF Can one MouseBot really eat that much cheese?
I love cats, so when MouseBot: Escape from CatLab came across my desk and I saw cats dressed up as mad scientists, I started cackling and was eager to give it a go. MouseBot ended up being a simple and charming ‘runner’ experience, but one that sadly grows stale after an extended stay in the Lab.
MouseBot follows a mechanical mouse trying to escape from a maze while a horde of cat scientists plot the best way to destroy the mechanical critter. The MouseBot will move forward independently, and the player, from a third person perspective, will control its jumps, lateral movement, and a few other mobility tricks unlocked in later stages. Traps vary from spikes to jump over, lasers to dodge, and metal saws to maneuver around.
Each stage is littered with cheese cubes, which are the main collectable. Cheese can be exchanged for hats and skins for the ‘Bot, though these changes are purely aesthetic. The other main collectable is heart tokens, of which there is one on each stage. These tokens usually require high-precision maneuvering, and are often directly next to a perilous trap waiting to sever the Bot in half. Though these collectables test the player’s advanced skills, I didn’t find the reward of alternate skins enticing enough to repeatedly throw myself in harm’s way.
This brings me to the difficulty, which can be surprisingly daunting for such a straightforward experience. When I first started my journey, I assumed this would be a low-skill challenge meant for beginners in the runner genre. However, as the difficulty curve started to climb, I found myself needing to restart levels on multiple occasions because of the difficult obstacles being hurled in my direction — each of the ten areas introduces a new mechanic, but later stages offer a combination of all the hazards flying relentlessly at the bot, and require incredibly precise inputs to dodge.
Though I enjoyed most of MouseBot‘s obstacles, my least favorite was the water mechanic. In certain sections, the player will have to ride a tide of waves over or under obstacles, but I found this mechanic to need some work as there were multiple times I thought my hit box was clear of a hazard, only to blown to smithereens.
MouseBot is a straightforward and challenging runner that doesn’t push the envelope, but achieves what it sets out to do. There’s also plenty of content for the asking price, which makes this a great pick for someone looking for a lighthearted, low-commitment experience, or for completionists looking to test their skills. As for me, after a few hours in the CatLab, I probably won’t be revisiting anytime soon.
Disclosures: This game was developed and published by Vector Unit, and available on PC, Switch, PS4/5 and XBO/X/S. This review copy was obtained from the publisher and reviewed on Switch. Three hours were devoted to single player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is rated E10+ by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence. The MouseBot will get pummeled countless times, and a cat may occasionally get beat up or hit with a laser, but it’s always cartoon-like and playful.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are no subtitles or voice acting, and no auditory cues are required for gameplay, making the game fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable.