Video Games

Mini reviews of 4 games with cats

Alley Cat by Synapse Software Corp.

A day in the life of a mangy scoundrel of a feline fencer (as in a climber of fences and an acquirer of stolen goods – 200 bonus points for the double entendre!), Alley Cat prowls among the most famous and timeless of CGA DOS games.

As the primo pussycat of the neighbourhood, it’s your job to show the locals who’s top cat! Flex your feline force by liberating apartments of pet budgies and inexplicably welcome mice (why else would someone keep an 8-foot wedge of swiss in their living room?), muddying up kitchen floors with grubby pawprints, and stealing kitty kibble from temporarily ajar windows, all the while foiling the determined defense of mean old bulldogs and Fantasia-esque magically animated brooms that swat at your tabby tush. And what epic tale of struggle and survival would be complete without a contest for the affections of a femme feline fatale? Levels conclude with an ascent past rival Romeos in an effort to bring a box of kitty kandies to your purring princess.

An oldie but greatie, Alley Cat can be Googled successfully enough to play immediately. The game tends to work great in all versions of Windows in a command console.


Wing Commander by Origin Systems Inc.

Featuring the fearsome feline foes (getting tired of alliterations yet?), the Kilrathi, the first 4 games in the Wing Commander series pit the player as a space pilot versus a race hell bent on human-icide.

In the birth of the series, the Kilrathi are portrayed as little more than furry humanoids with a penchant for heat seeking missiles and scathing one-liners. In later games the spotlight is shared and borders are blurred between the Kilrathi and the Terrans (humans) as characters are introduced, revealed, and destroyed wearing opposing uniforms. Out of context of the game world, the Kilrathi stand as a kind of figurehead of that oft-abused term of the 90’s, multimedia. The third game in the series introduced a new Kilrathi, evolved from 2D pixelated animations to a rather fearsome and towering shaggy behemoth replete with animatronic puppet heads and billowing silvery capes, beautifully rendered in high-res full motion video the likes of which had never before been seen.

For cat lovers who will adore their expressive side, to cat haters who will relish obliterating them, the Kilrathi make the Wing Commander series an easy sell to any aspiring space jockey. The original trilogy has been repackaged as The Kilrathi Saga and modified to run on modern machines and operating systems.


Guild Wars by ArenaNet

This groundbreaking, award winning, “sorta” massively multiplayer online RPG is a cat lover’s dream – combat magical sparklies and gushy yuckies alongside your faithful animal companion!

Sure, there are only a few tamable species and customization is limited to giving a name, but the creatures in Guild Wars add a new dimension, custom-tailoring your own personal strategy in this combat-heavy RPG. Though automatically attacking their owners’ targets and passively obeying commands, pets are, for the most part, autonomous, and are advised with broad strokes more than controlled. This chaos leads to some handy, amusing, and of course frustrating behaviour, but what living pet could offer much better than that? Rangers, as the only class capable of charming an animal companion, are a popular secondary profession for those not so allured by the call of spandex tights and feathered tunics.

And who can blame them? What could be more enjoyable, more human, than the ability to boss around a four-legged underling? To live out your totalitarian ambitions one poor creature at a time, be sure to pick up Guild Wars for the PC.


Black and White by Lionhead Studios

Borrowing some of the themes introduced in his first god game, Populous, the ever-ambitious Peter “Thy Lord” Molyneux said “let there be Black and White”. And there was Black and White. And it was good. Well, pretty good.

It’s tough to be taken seriously when you live life as a disembodied hand. That’s why, as a god competing for the affections (or unquestioned obedience) of a pagan populace, it’s handy to employ the services of a hulking animal familiar. Your tiger (one of several selectable creatures) in Black and White is a curious but delicate creature, dipping her toe or plunging head first into uncertain waters until you encourage or deter her from repeating the action. Thus, your tiger is the fruit of your labour and the flesh and blood representative of your mood, your ability, and your judgement. When your pet performed 2 actions in succession it was sometmies difficult to tell which you were encouraging or discouraging, so feedback was improved in the game’s sequel by means of speech bubbles stating clearly the action being addressed. The product was a lean, mean, grain growing machine, a fearless soldier with no qualms about pooping (enormously) on a poor farmer’s house, or a schizophrenic fat glob with an insatiable thirst.

As wonderous and fun as creature interaction is in these games, it takes a back seat to empire building in later levels. Still, even if, like me, you don’t get much further than the second level of each game, there’s lots of fun to be had with your living, breathing Tamagotchi.


PC Apps

5 of my favourite Firefox extensions

Mozilla Firefox is my favourite web browser for a number of reasons; primarily, its extensibility. Extraneous functionalities can be added to the browser by installing “extensions.” I dedicate today’s entry to the brilliant, generous authors of free extensions who have made web browsing easier and more enjoyable for thousands.

You can find extensions “officially” supplied by Mozilla at, or by clicking Tools / Extensions / Get More Extensions from the Firefox pulldowns. This site lists extensions endorsed by Mozilla and is granted install permissions in Firefox by default, so installing software from the site couldn’t be easier.

To install an extension, click the installer link from a web page (“filename.xpi“), click the Install button that pops up, close all instances of Firefox, and launch Firefox once again. I’ll include a link to the latest version of each extension in addition to the homepage for convenience, but please note that these links may not work for long as hardworking programmers update their programs frequently.

Note: You may need to grant install access to some websites to install an extension. Watch for the yellow bar at the top of the browser window.

Adblock – homepagelatest version

This plugin blocks images and Flash animations on a user-supplied list from appearing on web pages. Images can be blocked one-by-one or with wildcards. This is a powerful extension so don’t be over ambitious by blocking entire domains or you might break your favourite website (until you delete the entry in your blocklist).

Adblock Filterset.G – homepagelatest version

Apprehensive about creating your own blocklist? This extension periodically downloads a huge list of known advertisers and advertisements and plugs it right into Adblock. Thanks to this extension you may never see another ad on the web again!

ForecastFox – homepagelatest version

Do you take internet breaks by going outside, instead of the inverse? If so, you’ll love this extension! ForecastFox displays a highly customizable weather forecast for specific locales with accurate data and detailed descriptions. Later versions even show AccuWeather satellite cloudcover imagery. Secure yourself against driptorrent!

Mouse Gestures – homepagelatest version

Extra mouse buttons are to navigation what the mouse wheel is for scrolling. If you’re stuck with a 2-button mouse you can increase its browsing functionality with this extension. Borrowing liberally from the gestures feature in the Opera web browser, holding the right-mouse button while dragging the mouse enables users to go forward or back, resize text, open or close windows or tabs, and a whole lot more. Gestures can be added or deleted very easily, and mouse trails can be added. Try it for 15 minutes and you’ll never know how you managed without it.

BugMeNot – homepagelatest version

Want to read content on a members-only page but don’t want to give them your vitals? You’re not the only one. This extension draws upon the resources from the BugMeNot webpage, allowing users to right-click a login form and choose a pre-made user-submitted account. A great way to improve your web browsing security and privacy.

Have I made any glaring omissions? Please leave me a comment and I’ll check out your favourite extensions!