Nintendo's been releasing 3DS Virtual Console games at a very nice pace so far. In just a few months, we've already had classics like Donkey Kong and Gargoyle's Quest. The newest release, Catrap, however, is probably the most obscure title yet.
Originally released in Japan under the title Pitman, and based on a game earlier released on a Japanese home computer, Catrap is an odd little puzzler which is not too well known, but a bit of a minor cult classic. The premise is a bit similar to that of Bubble Bobble — the two main characters have been turned into anthropomorphic cats, and have to solve 100 puzzles in order to turn back to normal and escape.
Similar to games like Wrecking Crew, every level in the game is basically one big grid of blocks and enemies. You cannot "freely" move around, and are restricted to only moving from one square to the next. The goal in each level is rather simple: you have to defeat all of the monsters. The first level is a very simple demonstration of this — all you have to do is run right into a monster in order to automatically punch its lights out and knock it off the screen.
It doesn't stay that easy for very long, though. Within a handful of levels you'll already have to deal with ladders to climb, blocks to shove and disappearing blocks to punch through. A major part of the game is the fact that if something is removed from underneath something else, the object or creature on top will fall down, but not until you move out from under it. Certain levels will have giant stacks of objects and enemies — the final level is literally nothing more than 10+ stacks of enemies and boulders — and you'll have to think very carefully about which pieces of the stack you want to take out at which moment, and maybe even at which height.
Of course, since this is a game that can ask for a lot of trial and error, the developers built in a very handy function: it's possible to hop back in time, move by move, with a single press of a button, allowing you to "rewind" exactly to the moment at which you think you did something wrong. In fact, Catrap is credited with being the first game ever to include such a feature.
Things will continue on with the basics for a while, but around level 30 a new feature will suddenly be introduced. From that point on, almost every puzzle will feature not one, but both of the game's characters and you'll actually have to switch between them, sending them to different parts of the level in order to reach their common goal of wiping out all enemies. Puzzles start to get even more complex from then on, and you can potentially spend hours on some of them, they're just that dastardly.
There's also a nifty level editor included for the creative types. Although some might lament the fact that the game generates a password for each level you create, rather than saving it, in hindsight, this has turned out to be rather handy: it allows you to share your levels with others by simply handing them the code.
While the gameplay itself is very addictive, the overal presentation is a bit lacking. The graphics are relatively simple but repeat over and over; there are no suddenly different tilesets every few levels, so you're stuck with the same identical blocks and drab environment from start to finish. The music is also quite grating, and it'll get on your nerves before you know it.
Catrap is perhaps the first unknown gem to hit the 3DS Virtual Console, and we couldn't have thought of a much better pick. With its 100 built-in levels which get more and more devious, as well as a level editor, the game has a giant amount of content for such a "simple" Game Boy game and could keep you busy for weeks. It was quite overlooked back in the day, but perhaps now people will give this innovative puzzler a bit of attention.