Retro Review: Alley Cat (Atari 8-Bit Family)

alley_cat_1Taking a step back in time we revisit the wonderful world of the Atari 8-bit systems by touching upon an unusual platformer with a twist. Featuring just about everything a cat would lose sleep over, it's time for us to face feline problems  by dodging stray shoes and dogs in Alley Cat.

One of the real joys of being a writer for RetroCollect is the freedom it gives me to bring you little gems that some of you might have missed but old lags like me were lucky enough to play first time round. Alley Cat was released in 1983 for the Atari 8bit computer range by Synapse and was later ported to the PC (then IBM). The gameplay is a simple platformer mixed with mini games, but there are so many little touches within the game which really makes this one to look at in a little more depth.

Alas, poor Freddy!

You take control of a little cat and start the game in an alley outside a block of flats with windows that periodically open and close. Cats are naturally curious so of course making you want to get a look inside. Luckily there are a nice row of bins, a fence and some washing for you to use to climb up and leap on. You cant hang around too long though as there is a dog waiting in the alley that will chase you, and eventually take away one of those precious lives. A few hops will hopefully get you to an open window, grabbing some lunch and a few bonus points along the way as you capture mice that scurry along the washing lines. Be careful though as the occupants throw all sorts of objects at you to keep you out and if you get hit you are going down, cartoon style! 

If you manage to get inside a window you are presented with a room that holds one of a number of mini games. One holds a giant cheese (?) and is infested with mice. Your job is to rid the cheese of all the mice while avoiding a broom that's doing its best to push you out of the window. You DO have a defence against the ghostly brush, it hates a mess and being an alley cat you leave muddy paw prints everywhere you walk. Keep it occupied with a mess and while it cleans up you're free to catch the mice and rack up some points. There are many rooms to discover and part of the fun is working out what to do in each one. After you do, points grabbing becomes all important as you try and clear the room fast and go for a high score (just watch out for the room full of sleeping dogs...)

Love is in the air

Periodically, a slinky lady cat will sit on one of the windowsils and call to you. If you do manage to reach her you are presented with a frustrating climb up a ladder of ever changing hearts to bring her a present and win her affection, of course whilst other cats and indeed cupid himself try and thwart you. If you succeed you're presented with a heartwarming scene as you and your fair lady drift off together in a shower of fireworks and hearts. Aww..!

The graphics are spot on, the animations and the way the characters move are great, the whole thing has the feel of being in a Sylvester and Tweety cartoon. Its full of humour and empathy in which you cannot fail to feel for poor Freddy as you incompetently lead him into the path of a dog or another thrown shoe. The Atari isn't really pushed to its limits but the power within isn't needed as the gameplay, graphics and sound are more than enough to keep a smile on your face and reach for the joystick just one more time.

Alley Cat Gameplay Video

Last Updated ( 26 January 2012 )  


I am the original first generation. I wandered in to an arcade in the late 70’s and never really got over it. I don’t have a favourite system but I do have a lot of favourite games and spend most of my spare time playing and writing about them. On sunny days you could find me outside, but only if my longboard is with me.

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(Link to this comment) hydr0x 2012-01-26 21:41
Aaaah, Alley Cat, how I loved that quirky game. Was way too young to grasp all the room concepts and controls but I still returned to the IBM CGA version again and again. Thanks for this :)
(Link to this comment) PageVGP 2012-01-27 07:59
Wow, I remember playing games in CGA on my ultra fast 386 (!). Listening to the clunk of the RLL hard drive was an experience in its self.

Alley Cat was a real fave of mine and even back then I thought it didn't get the recognition that it deserved.
+1 (Link to this comment) hydr0x 2012-01-27 12:30
Pffff, 386 ;) I started on a IBM compatible that didn't even have a hard drive. I'm not exactly sure but it could have been a Commodore PC-10.

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