The Game: In this munching-maze game (one of the dozens of such games which popped up in the wake of Pac-Man), you control a cartoonish mouse who scurries around a cheese-filled maze which can only be navigated by strategically opening and closing yellow, red and blue doors with their color-coded buttons. Occasionally a big chunk o’ cheese can be gobbled for extra points. Is it that easy? No. There is also a herd of hungry kitties who would love a mousy morsel. But you’re not defenseless. By eating a bone (the equivalent of Pac-Man‘s power pellets), you can transform into a dog, capable of eating the cats. But each bone’s effects only last for a little while, after which you revert to a defenseless mouse. (Exidy, 1981)
Memories: Though its seemingly Tom & Jerry-inspired food chain made a cat vs. mouse variation of Pac-Man virtually inevitable, Mouse Trap frustrated that potential with a complex control system – too complex, actually.
One had to keep one’s eye on the screen, but the color-coded system of buttons was a little hard to memorize. Taking your eyes away from the action for a second to find the right button could result in losing a “life” very quickly.
Honestly, the best instruction/strategy guide available for Mouse Trap was written by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia. “Mouse Trap” was the subject of one of the better songs on their Pac-Man Fever album.
Coleco quickly snatched up the license to produce home versions of Mouse Trap. A nicely-translated cartridge was made for the ColecoVision (though it may well have increased the frustration factor by putting the color-coded controls on the ColecoVision’s keypad).