Upon finishing up Batman Begins on the PS2, I was up for another DC-themed movie game, so what do I reach and grab off my shelf? Catwoman, based on the infamously disastrous Halle Barry vehicle from 2004, where instead of being a thief she’s a literal CAT-Woman. Wait, shouldn’t it then be titled Cat-Woman, like Spider-Man? Sometimes…sometimes it’s hard playing games to cover on this site. I live with two females roommates and pondered the entire time whether it would be worse to be walked in on playing this game or watching pornography. Still not sure which is worse if you’re wondering.
Catwoman has probably one of the most sexiest set-ups for a game that I can think of in recent memory. Without much knowledge of the film, for obvious reasons, the plot centers around Patience Phillips, who gets killed by her employer the Hedare Company upon discovering they’re making a toxic beauty cream because the owner is a forty-year old woman who’s angry because forty. Patience is resurrected as the title character to put a stop to the Hedare company, wearing S&M fetish gear and brandishing a whip. Oh, and SPOILERS, she gets a man at the end. It’s like the check box for stereo typical woman things: They look sexy for our pleasure, they love make up, hate getting old, and really, REALLY want a man. Subtle, REALLY subtle.
Putting all that aside though, is it a good game, as even the awful Green Lantern movie had a good game, right? No, it isn’t, though I’ll admit there are parts of this game I like. The game has a heavy emphasis on plat-forming and acrobats, something that you’ll know I’m a sucker for, and tried to emulate one of my favorite franchises, Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia. Catwoman can climb on special surfaces, run up walls and leap from surface to surface, swing off poles and use her whip to cover gaps. When it works, it’s actually a lot of fun.
That’s of course, when it works. Developer Argonaut, those who made the original StarFox, let that sink in for a minute, chose the most baffling control scheme in the world. For a refresher, even though you’re smart enough to not need it, let’s take a look at Sony’s Dualshock 2 controller, shall we:
You see those front face buttons, those four things that every single game in on a console uses? Only TWO of them are used when you purchase two pointless upgrades for taunting and posing incredibly late into the game. The wall run movie is used by hitting the L1 button, fine, it was like that in Prince of Persia, but you jump with the R1 button and use your whip, as well as fight, with the right analog stick. The only way to move the camera is with the directional pad, and you can only do so slightly.
This is a monumental problem in a game where precision jumping is something you need to do progress. As early as level four or so you encounter some tricky jumps where it’s difficult to see where you have to go, causing you to fall annoyingly long distances to traverse just to get back to where you came from. The only way to properly survey your environment is to hold the R2 button to put yourself into, lets call it feline vision, which you can only do while standing still. As you often can’t decipher where you’re supposed to be going in a level from their designs, you can look for a trail of cat paws in the environment to see where you can go and interact with.
With the trigger buttons used for jumping as well as looking around and the face buttons not being used, that leaves the right analog stick dedicated to your fighting repertoire. If you recall, or if you don’t, I played a game where this worked pretty well, that game being 2003’s Blade II for the PS2/Xbox; Catwoman is no Blade II. Standing up and hitting the stick in the direction of a bad guy will jab them slightly, while holding L1 to crouch and moving the stick will perform some acrobatic kicks. There’s no combos to speak of, and the goal for all encounters is to properly line up an enemy with a conveniently placed dumpster, box, closet, window etc. to trap them.
You can purchase upgrades between levels that unlock some pretty cool whip moves, like being able to disarm enemies and bring them up close to you to throw into something to eliminate them from a fight. Pulling off these moves reliably is a pain though, and you’re often best holding the trigger, rolling around and hoping for the best. The only compliment I can give to the fighting is that it’s not frequent, you lose little health from anything including bullets, and I never died from a fight once.
I did manage to have some fun with Catwoman, something I’ll admit I didn’t expect in a million years, as the plat-forming reminds me of one of my favorite series of all time, but some really bonehead decisions keep it from being something I can even recommended as a curiosity. Call it a rushed development cycle like any other movie game, but the movie shouldn’t exist, let alone a game based on it. Hey, I made it through this entire review without a cat pun. Puuurrr-fect.
Ah, goddamn it.