Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man’s influence loomed large over the video game industry in the early 80’s so it should come as no surprise that there were a number of games that used that formula for their own gaming efforts. Ladybug and Mousetrap are two of the more commonly known multi-platform Coleco games that used this formula to create something familiar yet uniquely entertaining in their own right.
In Ladybug, you play as a regular old ladybug just trying to chomp your way through a maze while avoiding lobster-looking insects and changing the orientation of the various turnstiles to protect yourself by stopping the advances of the insects. In addition to points you get from eating the x’s in the maze, you can collect letters & vegetables for special bonus points. There’s a visual timer along the screen border that indicates how quickly the game will release an insect into the maze. Once the border changes from white to green, you know it’s on! This is useful to know when to stay away from the insect home base. The level mazes all look pretty similar with the greatest difference being the speed and skill of the insects trying to stop you from eating all those delicious x’s (?!?!). The game is very basic looking and the sounds aren’t anything spectacular or memorable but Ladybug’s gameplay and surprisingly smooth controls are well done. I enjoy Ladybug for it’s simple pleasures and really that’s what Pac-Man clones are all about.
Mousetrap attempts to do something even more ambitious with the same structure (mouse eats cheese dots in maze while avoiding hungry kitty cats). Instead of turnstiles that you simply push in a different directions, in Mousetrap, you have colored doorways that you must trigger using the number pad on the Colecovision controller. I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa, wait…the number pad is actually used for something other than choosing your skill level and number of players?” Unfortunately, yes. The concept is ambitious as I already stated, because this requires you to remember which numbers represent which color, regardless if you have the overlay or not. In a fast paced game like Mousetrap, you won’t have time to look down at your controller to remember which color opens which door so memorization is key. Opening doors allows you access to cheese, bones and bonus items while potentially, if triggered correctly, blocking the cats from eating you! Eating bones is helpful as they allow you to transform into a dog that can in turn eat the cats when they are getting too close for mouse’s comfort. Unlike Pac-Man, you don’t instantly turn into a dog once you eat a bone. Instead you’ll need to press the #5 key (also indicated on the overlay) to actively turn into a dog. This allows you to use them when YOU want but it’s another opportunity to hit the wrong key when you’re in a tight spot and end up dying instead of making the fur fly. Another less useful way to escape is the “In” door located at the middle of the maze. Entering this door will automatically transport you randomly to one of the 4 corners of the maze so only use it if you have to. I like Mousetrap and find it very enjoyable but the controls just aren’t up to par on the Colecovision. My mouse gets stuck in corners and while trying to turn way too often for my liking. I find myself wasting time just trying to nudge my mouse forward or backward a millimeter to allow him to move up or down on the maze as opposed to seamlessly being able to traverse the maze with no stoppages. While the Colecovision controller will never win any ergonomic awards, it especially is brutal on your hands in Mousetrap due to the frenetic pace and lack of smooth movement. It’s a shame because Mousetrap deserves better and is a fundamentally more enjoyable game than Ladybug (in my opinion) but I still find myself playing Ladybug more thanks to the controls.
Currently in my collection:
Ladybug – game only B
Mousetrap – game, overlay B-