Tomcat Alley – Sega CD
Tomcat Alley Flies Far Under the Radar
Platform: Sega CD
Developer: The Code Monkeys
Release Date (NA): 1994
Nerd Rating: 1.5 out of 10
I’ve been putting this game off for some time now. I’ve owned Tomcat Alley (actually I own 2 complete copies & I’ll pay you $20 to take them both off my hands) for probably 12 years now but I don’t remember ever playing it. I’m sure maybe I stuck it in the Sega CD once before, but it must have been a very forgettable moment because I don’t remember at all! But here I go… going to give it a shot and see. I’m not excited though because I’ve played FMV games before and I find them to be extremely boring and not typically very well put-together.
Tomcat Alley starts off with the traditional grainy FMV video footage that comes standard with all Sega CD games (picture above). There’s a car driving through the desert and the pre-game/movie credits are rolling. It’s kinda cool because it has the look and feel of a movie and the thought of.. OH WTF?! IS THAT A CAT?!?! Okay, there’s a cut-scene of a cat. I didn’t know cats were indigenous to the desert. Anyway, the car comes to a stop, some guy gets out, looks at the camera and says “C’mon kid. Let’s go.” And enters through the gate. My preconceived thoughts on Tomcat Alley were “this is going to be terrible.” But I have to admit I’m somewhat intrigued. I like this. I feel like I’m part of the movie!
The game starts in a briefing room with a bunch of actors telling me there’s a T22 Bomber that has snuck into America undetected by radar. This bomber is currently carrying a chemical-warfare-bomb strong enough to destroy over half of the western hemisphere. Mind you, this is all done via live action and FMV. The actors are halfway decent and the setting is somewhat believable. I’m buying into it. I’m ready for action Commander! The commander informs you that your duty is to take out this bomber at all costs. He then sends you on your merry way with a solid “Let’s kick the tires and light the fires” send off.
We’re graced with some more grainy video footage of some tomcat jets launching off into the air for hopefully an action-packed day of shooting down the enemy. We then switch to a cockpit view where the player now has some control over the events about to happen. The video footage is already filmed, so the player doesn’t actually get to control the jet AT ALL. Instead the player gets to operate the crosshairs and press the “fire” button. I started pressing the buttons to see what would happen. I pressed “A” which I believe is fire. The flying scene cuts into a video scene of the Tomcat firing a missile. Some other Tomcat pilots start chattering about some crap and then it goes back to the cockpit scene with me operating the crosshairs again. I thought I saw something, so I pressed the A button to fire, and another cut scene interrupts the game, except this time it’s some pilot looking into the camera and he says “I don’t think you’re ready to be up here yet.” And it’s a Game Over. Seriously?
I couldn’t tell you WTF I did wrong. The same thing happened to me three times in a row. The worst part is that I can’t skip through the FMV sequences once we’re in the air. The start button just pauses the video. It’s just frustrating and confusing. There’s no assistance whatsoever and it’s total BS when I have to pull out the booklet to learn how to get more than 40 seconds into a game before getting a game over. So far, not looking good.
I finally figured it out, and without going into more pointless detail, I’ll tell you that this game is a total piece of garbage. The only control I am given is to move a curser and press the B button. Half of the time I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, and your teammates in the other jets give you all of 5 seconds before they start getting impatient and get a nasty tone with you. You get 2 tries to get it right. If you don’t perform the proper procedure in time, you will either be shot / forced to eject (resulting in a Game Over) or your teammates will abort the mission (resulting in a Game Over).
Tomcat Alley is a very unforgiving game and it’s pretty high on the difficulty index. But the difficulty is only caused by not knowing what to do! If it were defined more clearly as to what I’m supposed to do, then I wouldn’t have any trouble. I used the reticle as I was instructed and pressed the buttons as instructed. But it makes no difference.
Overall Tomcat Alley was a painfully awkward experience resulting in extreme confusion and MAYBE frustration? I’m not sure if I’m mad because I’m not sure what I’d be mad at. To be honest and fair, I didn’t make it TOO far in this game, although I did begin to advance more regularly (with only about 10 game overs before I eventually quit). Tomcat Alley is an FMV game, so this is kind of what I expected. Nothing about this game is intuitive, ingenious, new, fun, or inventive. The whole idea was for an interactive movie experience the likes of which the world had never seen before. The ACTUAL outcome of that idea is a boring snorer of a “game” called Tomcat Alley. It’s not worth the $1 you would pay online for this game. This game was a pack-in with some Sega CD systems, so it’s no wonder the Sega CD failed to reach any success. Tomcat Alley might have saved the US from certain destruction, but it couldn’t save the Sega CD from bombing in the electronics market.
Stay far away from this title. It’s not even worth an exploratory look. Tomcat Alley gets a 1.5 for the simple fact that this game IS actually playable, albeit tough to learn. And for a somewhat intriguing introduction that made me want to hit the start button. Other than that, well, read above.
Nerd Rating: 1.5 out of 10
Submitted by NerdBerry
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