Upon first hearing the title, The Cat and The Coup sounds like some kind of Dr. Seuss book about Fidel Castro or something. Fortunately, it’s a lot more fun that that.
A free historic documentary game, the story takes place in the summer of 1953 and focuses on the death of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh.
The Cat and The Coup features gorgeous artwork, a compelling story and addictive gameplay. It also has lots of educational value but it’s so much fun you will forget you are actually learning history. Available for Mac and Windows.
As the player, you take the role of the Prime Minister’s cat and lead him through events in his life by doing cat things like knocking objects off of their shelving, or scattering the Prime Minister’s papers. Generally, things you would expect a cat to do, (especially things you wish they wouldn’t do) like scratching you or knocking a bottle of ink onto the floor.
It’s got some tense moments, some hilarious moments, and some unexpected moments.
The control interface is pretty simple, so there isn’t any kind of learning curve to the game. It uses the arrow keys and the spacebar to control your kitty and move him through the gorgeously rendered scenes of the game. The arrow keys move the cat, and the space bar activates his paw-swipe. You’ll need to use the swipe at different points through the game to have things happen and move on to the next scene. Each of the scenes in the game is rendered as a very pretty piece of artwork. You begin as the cat on the bed of the Prime Minister when he has died. As you move through the room using the arrow keys, white outlines appear, showing you where to go next. You’ll have to jump onto the table and take a swipe at the grandfather clock to get the Prime Minister to wake up, and begin leading you backwards through his life. Every scene is nicely detailed and looks like a painting from an art gallery, and each one is connected to the others by loose chains or by other background pictures.
The whole thing felt a little bit like being through the looking glass. There are tons of little details to take in as you explore each scene. Each of them is focused on one major event in the life and career of the Prime Minister, and you will be learning history at the same time as having fun. Each scene will provide a logic puzzle that you will need to solve to move on the to next and learn more about Mossadegh’s life and career. The puzzles themselves are pretty engaging and can be fairly challenging, especially at first. As you progress, however, you’ll find the right answers come easier as you get into the right frame of mind to solve them. Some hilarious moments can ensue as you do different things in the game, like forcing the Prime Minister to balance on a ball or making him pick up the ink bottle 400 times. It’s amazing what great pleasure can come from these small moments, but they are done so well it’s hard not to credit them with some kind of genius. The biggest tip that I would offer is to always keep your eye on the Minister, as he will give you hints of what to do next, as well as provide comic relief at certain points.
Downloading and installing takes about one minute total, on a broadband connection. The game requires 2GB of RAM, and that’s about it. While the graphics are very pretty, they are two dimensional and therefore don’t take much power to run. The real draw of this game, to me, was the surreal quality of the scenes. Combined with the eerie and somber soundtrack, the collage-like game environment makes the whole thing feel like a strange dream. Even the logic puzzles can be pretty out there, like knocking a head off of a statue, which turns into a bowling ball attached to a chain and the head is replaced by an inflating balloon that is painted to look like peacock feathers. The whole thing is very strange and compelling at the same time, putting me in mind of Keys of a Gamespace.
Overall, I would suggest this game for anyone who has an interest in history, logic puzzles or surreal artwork.