Alley Cat is a Platform Game created by the late Bill Williams (based in a concept by John Harris) and released for the Atari 8-Bit Computers by Synapse Software in 1983, then released the next year for IBM PC as well as the Apple ][ computers. It was released first as a Booter game, that is, you insert the disk with the game before starting the computer, and the game will boot itself instead of the OS. For the PC version however, the game can also be started from MS-DOS or compatible operating systems by inserting the disk, switching the prompt to the drive, and typing "cat". On the Atari 800 and Apple II versions of the game, the game is a pure booter title.
In this game, you control an Alley Cat who must climb trash cans and the tall fence of the alley to get to the rooms of the building in the back and to perform various tasks. After completing a task, the Alley Cat can go to a special room to get to a female cat callying him. There, he must climb upon a set of platforms filled with hearts, avoiding arrows and other cats to kiss the female cat at the top. Upon being successful, the level advances and the game repeats itself on a higher difficulty.
Many things can harm the cat, from dogs and random objects falling (or thrown?) from the windows, to other creatures such as Electric Eels and Spiders. And a very annoying broomstick that chases the cat upon it's gone of the apartment or loses a life.
Alley Cat provides examples of:
- Big Ball of Violence: Upon touching a dog, one of these form and roll out of the screen, but because you are the cat, you lose a life.
- Cats Are Mean: The other cats besides the female cat and the player are more like annoying obstacles: the ones on the alley sometimes peek out of the trash cans, and if the player is there, there will be always a dog charging into you. The other cats in the heart room just impede your progress.
- Developer's Foresight: Many early MS-DOS games did not bother with precise timing, expecting every processor to be 4.7 MHz 8088. This made them unplayably fast even on 80286. But not Alley Cat. It used the system clock and remained playable on modern machines without extra software (such as Moslo or emulators) until Microsoft abandoned 16-bit subsystem, somewhere between 2007 and 2020.note
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Although it plays more like a level select feature. Every difficulty level changes the obstacle placement on the alley and the type of task rooms you can enter. Every time you clear a level, it will advance to the next:
- Kitten (Easy)
- House Cat (Normal)
- Tomcat (Hard)
- Alley Cat (Very Hard)
- Psycho Electric Eel: Found in the fishbowl on the room of the same name, every fish you eat adds one to the fishbowl, and if one touches you...ZAP!.
- Spiders Are Scary: Even if it's not to scale, how many times have you seen a spider that is as big as an Alley Cat!?
- Symbol Swearing: What the cat says if he falls out of the heart room.
- Troll: If a dog attacks the cat inside the house on levels above "Kitten", you get a screen with the dog saying "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty."
- Updated Re-release: A special build of the MS-DOS version was released alongside the IBM PCjr, this version takes advantage of the Video Gate Array (aka Tandy Graphics) graphics chipset to produce more colorful graphics, and the SN76489 PSG to produce better quality audio.
- Written Sound Effect: All over the place, usually when the cat is hit by an object (BONK!), touched by an Electric Eel (ZAP!), or bitten by a spider (BYTE!). Also, when a cat loses a life in a task room, a screen briefly reads one of those: OUCH! ALAS! PITY! And OOPS! for accidentally jumping out of the window.