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Review: Andy Thorn on ??/??/2000

Bad Cats is a Williams game from 1989, designed by Barry Oursler (Space Shuttle) with a theme of...cats! Well, Williams had yet to reach the 'every game must be a licence' era of the 1990's so why not? Bally were just about to release Mousin Around, after all! It's cartoon cats rather than real ones, and they're all doing amusing things like trying to net the goldfish, or roasting a mouse above a candle....hmmm, this looks funnier in cartoon form than in print, check out the backglass picture...

Anyway, the first thing you'll notice about the game is the backglass, as it has a great animation feature. The animation is of a woman with a broom hitting a cat, who has tried to eat her budgie - somewhat reminiscent of the horse kicking the cowboy in Buckaroo. In fact, the woman is one of the few non feline characters in the game's artwork, there's hundreds of cats (well it seems like hundreds) and not much else! The backglass is very attractive though, as it's screen printed with good use of mirroring.

Probably the second thing you'll notice is the Seafood Wheel in the centre of the playfield, a physical wheel visible through a perspex window. The other main playfield features (from left to right) are a bank of five drop targets (budgies), then the Tiger ramp which brings the ball right round the edge of the playfield to the right return lane. In the top left of the playfield is the Garbage Can lane, next to the Fish Bone-Us 'linear target' (a twist on the vari-target theme). At the very top right of the playfield are three roll-over lanes (spelling TOY), below which are three pop bumpers. Below these is a bank of 3 drop targets (milk bottles) and above the right outlane is the entrance to 'Ralphies Kennel'. Finally, above the Seafood Wheel, just right of centre, is the Fishbowl ramp which brings the ball down to the left return lane. The game has the traditional 2 flipper/slingshot/outlane/return lane arrangement.

The plunger lane brings the ball up to these roll-overs, where one lane flashes for the skill shot. Making this lane (lane change is not operable at this point) advances the bonus X. In normal play, spelling TOY advances the multiplier, up to 7X (shooting the ball to the right of the Fish Bone-Us target brings the ball back to the rollovers). From the TOY lanes the ball exits to the main playfield, either downwards or to the left, under the Fishbowl ramp. The main features of the game are as follows:

BAD CATS. Spelling BAD CATS lights the Fishbowl ramp for the jackpot, which scores up to 8 million points. Each time either drop target bank is completed a letter is lit, so just complete 7 banks and shoot the ramp! It's not quite as easy as it sounds, but not the most demanding jackpot feature I've played! The jackpot value (to the nearest million) is shown on the backglass.

FISH BONE-US. The value (25, 50, 75, 100, 500K) is advanced by the linear target. This works in the same way as a vari-target - in as much as the harder you hit it the more it advances the reward - but instead of being pivoted below the playfield the target is mounted on the end of a bar which is pushed straight back by the force of the ball. When lit, the right flipper return lane adds a 10X multiplier to the lit value, so shooting the Garbage Can lane is potentially worth 5 million points. If no value is lit, the lane scores 10K (or 100K if the multiplier is lit). From this lane, the ball is kicked across the playfield to the pop bumper area.

SEAFOOD WHEEL. The wheel is spun by shooting the ball into Ralphies Kennel, when lit. There are 8 random awards, from 10K through to Special, including Extra Ball and Light Jackpot. On the last ball, one outlane is lit for 'Curiosity Spin', so you can hope for, but never get, an extra ball....

TIGER RAMP. Really, this is the key for high scores. Starting at 50K, the ramp award advances up to unlimited millions (timed), and on the last ball shooting four consecutive ramp shots lights it for 20 million, at the time apparently the highest scoring single shot ever. As the jackpot can only be a maximum of 8 million, you can see that the best way onto the high score table is via the Tiger ramp.

FISHBOWL RAMP. As well as awarding the jackpot, this ramp is a good shot in it's own right. Like the Tiger ramp 50K is the first award, but four consecutive shots of this ramp can award an extra ball.

MULTIBALL. Ummm, no. Not even the Mickey Mouse kind of 2 ball multiball like Game Show, the designers saw fit to make Bad Cats a single ball game. I can't think of a more recent game that doesn't utilise multiball - maybe they used all their budget on the backglass animation (though how much can a 3 ball mechanism cost???).

So, is it a good game to add to your collection? Well, it depends what you like really... With jokey artwork and sound effects (the 'Meow Meow Meeeooowwww' of the Fishbowl ramp being a particular favourite) it's definitely a fun game to play, but you soon discover there is no real depth to the gameplay. I don't think it would have taken much to add this depth, possibly multiball coupled to an increased jackpot feature for example, as with Bad Cats if you just keep shooting the ramps you won't really go far wrong. But, it IS an easy game to get in to, and casual players tend to say it's their favourite game in my collection, ahead of, for example, Apollo 13 and Phantom of the Opera.

For someone who wants a fun game that's easy to play, and one on which their friends will enjoy the odd game, then I would say it's a good bet.

As long as you like cats.....