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Tom and Jerry: War of the Whiskers Review

Developer: NewKidCo Publisher: NewKidCo
Release Date: November 18, 2002 Also On: GCN and PS2

I bought a GCN for one reason and one reason only. Anybody who knows me will know that reason before I say it, but for those of you who doesn’t, that reason is a little game known as SSBM. I enjoyed playing the original SSB at a cousin’s house, but not so much that I felt the need to pay money for a console to play it more often. Melee though I couldn’t resist. Even two years and sixty-some games later, SSBM remains my favorite game in my collection, and I have actively sought since I got through everything I was going to get through in SSBM for another game that would be as addicting to me. I have run the gamut of genres in this pursuit, but am convinced that only a game with similar gameplay to SSBM will ever replace it in my mind.

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Now, you all are probably wondering what that has to do with the game at hand. I found Tom and Jerry in War of the Whiskers on sale for $13 at Target. I thought that for that price it might be at least a temporary diversion from Melee, and indeed it was. The game is not nearly as addictive as SSBM, but that is due more to squandered potential than a lack of it.

The basic concept of the game is simple. You choose from one of up to eleven characters and fight up to three other characters in the multiplayer mode, or four characters one at a time in the one-player challenge mode. Sounds enough like a melee clone, doesn’t it? But there’s more. There are over 75 different objects strewn about the different locales that can be picked up and used as weapons, similar to the item system in SSBM. Also, unlike traditional fighting games, where only the background changes between stages, each stage does have a different layout and thus different strategic possibilities. Why then do I say that this game is only a temporary diversion from melee? I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you.

Let’s start with the graphics. The graphics in this game are far from spectacular, but they are much, much farther from the opposite extreme. It is easy to tell who each character is by what they look like. The stages also look nice and are well-drawn. I have not noticed any slowdown or anything of the type in all the times I have played the game also, which is a big plus. Overall, the graphics do a good job of adding atmosphere to the game, but they won’t impress you a lot like in some games.

So far as the sound goes, most of the music and sound effects do their job, but not much more than that. Each stage has its own music, but most of that music is forgettable. The sound effects are typical fighting game fare smacks and whacks. The one annoying thing is the announcer when he says (insert name of character here) ready, wins, or loses, which he does at the appropriate point in each round. I say it’s annoying only because the voice is a little grating and you’ll be hearing those phrases repeatedly. Overall, the sound is decidedly average.

Now, on to the gameplay. You’re probably thinking I made this game sound almost exactly like SSBM. It isn’t, there are many differences. The first difference that needs to be pointed out is that there are only eleven characters available, and even nine of those have to be unlocked by beating the challenge mode with earlier characters. Having eleven characters is bad enough, but it gets worse. For all practical purposes, the only difference it makes which character you use is speed of movement or power of attacks, meaning that big characters like Tom will be slightly more powerful and slightly slower, while small characters like Jerry will be slightly faster and slightly less powerful. For all intents and purposes, it makes little if any difference at all which character you use in terms of power and speed.

“But they each have a different moves, right?” you might be asking. Nope. Only the two boss characters, which are the last two characters you unlock, have different move sets from the other nine. The first nine all rely on a punch button, a kick button, a jump button, a guard button, and a grab button. The first four should be self-explanatory, although it should be mentioned that double-jumping is possible in this game. The grab button serves to grab an item or drop one if one is already possessed. Here’s where the already simplistic controls get simpler. When you have an item, the punch and kick buttons both do the exact same thing. Also, if an opponent is guarding, you can use the grab button to grab them and then either drop them by hitting it again or throw them using the punch or kick buttons. Obviously, you can’t grab an opponent if you’re already holding an item.

Now that we’ve covered that lets cover the game modes that are present in this game. Challenge mode is a one-player mode. In it your character fights four of the nine normal characters at random (they’ll never fight themselves) and then one of the two boss characters. Each battle takes place on a random stage as well, except for the boss battle which always takes place on the same stage. This mode is primarily for unlocking the nine unlockable characters, a feat which isn’t particularly hard to pull off if you set the game to the minimum difficulty setting. Luckily, they did make it so that as you go through with the characters that get unlocked later, the difficulty increases slightly to compensate for how far you are into unlocking characters.

Also available are the multiplayer modes of single battle or tournament. The single battle mode allows up to four human and/or computer players to pick characters (more than one can pick the same character) and go at it in free-for-all, team, and tag-team modes. In the tag-team mode, the character who is sitting out recovers energy slowly.

Now, this game is essentially a button masher so far as the actual battles go, with only a little bit of strategy involved in determining what items to use and ignore. Anybody can easily pick up this game and play it decently. I know the same accusation has been leveled at SSBM, but this game takes the pick-up-and-play concept to extremes. That is not necessarily bad, but it does make this game more simplistic than it had to be.

So far as replay value goes, there isn’t really much once you unlock all the characters. Since the game is so simplistic, I’d say it might make a good party game, but for a single person, this game will last a couple hours at best unless you’re a really big Tom and Jerry fan. However, for the multiplayer only, if you can get a copy at Target, where the game should still be available for $17, the game is certainly worth that, at least for those of you who have somebody else to play with.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 4
Final: 5.3
Written by Martin Review Guide