A 3D auto-runner, MouseBot: Escape from CatLab is an uncomplicated on-rails platformer that doesn’t offer much in terms of variety but has approachable design and simplicity. Best played by young gamers and in short bursts, it wouldn’t be fair to call MouseBot a bad game, just a plainly boring one.
Playing the role of a wind-up mouse toy, it is your objective to reach the end of each maze in one piece while collecting a bunch of cheese chunks. Most stages take approximately 30-45 seconds to complete so it doesn’t take much to see it all and the liberal checkpoint system makes restarting almost entirely painless. The brevity of each stage is actually much preferred as there isn’t much in terms of visual or challenge diversity. Each stage has the toy mouse avoiding the same stereotypical hazards like buzz saws, spiked walls, and even mines in the water segments. Shortly after starting, the player will gain the ability to jump and juke to the left or right which adds some slight spice to the gameplay but the level design is essentially the same from beginning to end. Just be aware you cannot jump or dash when in the water, a lesson I had to learn the hard way as the game never explains this inconsistency.
Even if you have the tenacity to grind through each of the same-y levels, the attempt to create additional replay value through the same monotonous objectives in each stage is fleeting. The game optionally tasks the player to collect all the cheese, not die, snag the heart icon, and finish within a certain amount of time. Due to occasional unfair level design, the player will rarely be able to complete all objectives in one run making replays an annoying requirement if you want to see it all. For example, it might be best to collect all the cheese blocks in one run, then ignore the cheese on the next just to focus on taking tight turns to finish before the target time. Target times, by the way, are super super specific and often the hardest challenge to complete when you need to finish a stage before 43.06 seconds.
Replaying the same boring levels just to check a box on the menu screen is never fun and always tedious. The payoff isn’t worth it either as the player unlocks cosmetic skins by spending collected cheese. Each new hat or outfit does not alter the attributes of the playable mouse making the point moot.
There is an attempt to make the gameplay more exciting by including the optional first-person view mode but this actually makes navigating each maze more difficult due to the limited viewing angle. The good news is, there are several big point Achievements if you are a Gamerscore hunter. Even taking into consideration this game was made by a small team and only costs a few bucks doesn’t hide the fact this is a grindy, tasteless obstacle avoider.
Also available on Switch, PS4, and PC.
Also Try: that TV show where they have to fit through the incoming wall
Don’t Forget About: Tom & Jerry cartoons
Wait For It: a sequel to Escape from N.Y./L.A.