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Cat Burglar is entertaining as a cartoon, but it fails to capture the essence of the game.


I grew up in the days of VHS board games and then DVD special features, which included quiz games and interactive fiction on occasion (the Home Movies box sets have some particularly good ones). They're kind of fascinating in a "car wreck" kind of sense, because they never functioned. Even with greater technology and narrative accessible to producers, today's streaming platforms appear primed for a resurgence of the "game video" notion, but instances are few and far between.

 The interactive episode of Black Mirror, "Bandersnatch," has perhaps made the most impact so far. I "played" it and, like many others, found it to be quite disappointing: Your options were restricted, and the tale was very bland (and I never found the scene where you the main character fights his therapist to my infinite and everlasting sadness). Nonetheless, it was a fascinating attempt. Charlie Brooker returned to Netflix last week to try his hand at the format once more, but this time in a very different genre: old school cartoons.

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Cat Burglar is a 12-minute fight between a cat attempting to steal an artwork from an art gallery and a night guard dog. It's a near-perfect rip-off of a Looney Tunes short in terms of exaggerated emotions, physical humour, and occasional fourth-wall breaching as a cartoon. Although it might stand alone without the interactive components, Warner Bros. and Disney also have dozens of their finest animated shorts accessible on HBO Max and Disney+, respectively, if you truly want an old-school animation. There's also the Netflix programme Cuphead, which I'm not interested in because I've never played the game (and probably never will because I'm not very good at platformers).

Cat Burglar's primary allure is its interactivity, and it even refers to itself as a "trivia game" rather than merely a "experience." What do you think of it as a game? The game is made up of a series of quicktime events in which you must answer three quiz questions in a small amount of time. If you respond right, the cat lives and the action continues; if you answer incorrectly, the cat dies and you must make the decision all over again.

If you're searching for challenging trivia, this isn't it, as the majority of the questions can be answered by anyone over the age of eight. There are obviously "correct" and "wrong" answers, and the game allows you to lose three lives before being taken to paradise. As a result, it seems even more confining than "Bandersnatch," because you don't have much of a say.

While I claimed "most" of the questions are designed to be simple to answer, the game will try to fool you on occasion. I've died a few times in the game because my thumb jerked, I misinterpreted the answers (one sequence is full of double negatives), or I just didn't like the question. (I still believe that an Emperor Penguin is more powerful than the Emperor of Japan; I recognised what the game wanted, but it made me angry because I was so stupid.) Each time the game asks you three questions, you will lose the scene and hence a life if you answer incorrectly. However, dying just means restarting the game from the beginning, and even then, it's not all - the game will skip over little pieces of animation you've seen previously that aren't important to the broader storyline.

When you complete the game by successfully stealing a painting, your new purchase is displayed in a gallery for future playthroughs. There are six of them, but I've only played half of them thus far. The game allows you to restart if you win — or even if you lose — with the characters promising a "totally fresh" experience. That is not the case in my evening of gaming, as I've previously seen some interchangeable sequences many times. Either there aren't a lot of choices or I'm simply having bad luck. However, you'd think the game would be set up to avoid duplicates at initially.

In the end, I believe Cat Burglar is a better experience than "Bandersnatch" since it is much shorter; if I wanted to rerun "Bandersnatch," I would have to question myself if I had an hour or more to waste only to view one or two plot routes. Knowing that Cat Burglar will be quick makes it less intimidating, and it's also a good choice for youngsters if you don't mind graphic cartoon violence.