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Back in 2000, NewKidCo developed Tom and Jerry in Fists of Furry, an arena style brawler that really captured the heart of the classic Tom and Jerry cartoons. It was all about beating the shit out of your opponents accompanied by cartoon visuals and an excellent soundtrack, both of which perfectly matched the source material. Unfortunately, the game is too easy and really lacks any form of depth. Still, it’s a fun game. Developed by VIS Entertainment and published by NewKidCo, Tom and Jerry in War of the Whiskers is the sequel to Fists of Furry, released for PlayStation 2 in October, 2002. The GameCube and Xbox versions were released in November, 2003. For this review I played the GameCube version.
There really is no story here, just classic cartoon antics. There’s three modes to play – Challenge, Quick Game, and Tournament. Challenge is the single player mode where you choose a character and fight opponents in five arenas, with the final arena consisting of a boss fight. Quick Game and Tournament can be played either solo or with up to four friends. You can choose your character, handicap, costume, and battle it out in any arena of your choosing. The only difference between Quick Game and Tournament is that Tournament lets you decide how many matches a player or team must win to be declared the winner. War of the Whiskers obviously has a multiplayer focus but to unlock all of the characters you will need to beat the Challenge mode with each character.
The basic idea is to beat the shit out of your opponents to win. Your basic attacks consist of punching and kicking but if you double jump and press either of the two attack buttons you can perform a body slam or homing attack. These special attacks do major damage and normally cause your opponents to drop health that you can pick up. Sadly, you can just spam these attacks throughout an entire match to easily win. To help you kick your opponents ass are various weapons and objects that will spawn in the arenas. You can beat your opponents over the head with a fish or maybe throw some TNT at them and watch them comically turn black from the blast. No matter what weapon or object you pick up you can charge up your attack for more damage. Every now and then a question mark will appear and if you acquire it you’ll either obtain a shield that prevents you from taking damage for a limited time or poison gas that will slowly drain your health. Just like in Fists of Furry you can still catch objects thrown at you if you time it right and you can still duck to avoid thrown objects and ducking is also the equivalent to blocking. However, now you can pick up opponents and chuck them across the arena. They need to either be stunned or ducking and you only have a limited time to throw them, once picked up. As you keep kicking your opponents’ ass, your Berserk meter begins to fill and once full you can enter Berserk mode where you do even more damage for a limited time.
When you first fire up the game I would highly recommend you play through the Challenge mode. By beating the game with each character, you unlock new characters. To win a match you need to win two out of three rounds and then you proceed to the next fight. The final arena always pits you against one of two final bosses – Monster Jerry or Robot Cat. Monster Jerry is just a giant muscular Jerry. He can shrink and enlarge himself again by drinking green potions found in the arena. Robot Cat can spit fireballs or spin around in a circle while breathing fire. By beating the game with every character you unlock Monster Jerry and Robot Cat as playable characters in the Quick Game and Tournament modes.
Obviously Tom and Jerry are playable characters but there are several others you should recognize from the cartoon. Spike, Tike, Duckling, Butch, Nibbles, Eagle, and Lion can all be unlocked. The smaller characters always move faster than the larger ones. By destroying specific objects in the arenas, you can acquire costumes for specific characters that can be equipped in the Quick Game and Tournament modes. I have no idea if you have to destroy these objects in the Challenge mode but from what I understand you need to destroy the objects as the character to unlock the costume for that character. If the gameplay wasn’t so repetitive and easy, I would have been happy to find the costumes on my own. Instead, after I unlocked all of the characters, I just used a cheat to unlock the costumes. I will grant the game this – the costumes do add a bit of replay value. Only certain characters can wear costumes and the costumes don’t affect the gameplay in any way.
The arena’s represent classic locations from the cartoon like a kitchen, haunted house, scrap yard, and even a boat. All of the arena’s consist of environmental hazards. For example, you can get covered in cement in the Towering Infurno arena, making you unable to attack for a limited time. A tornado will come and throw you around in the Unfurgiven arena and an avalanche will cover you in snow in the Snow Fight arena. All of the hazards are comical and put a smile on my face. There’s also plenty of little details to admire like a wanted poster of Butch in the Unfurgiven Arena. Body slam an opponent and they’ll flatten like a pancake. If any character manages to catch fire, they’ll run around the arena screaming in pain. If a character gets electrocuted they’ll flash between their normal appearance and their skeleton. There’s just tons of little nods and references to the cartoon and other classic cartoons that’s it’s very hard to play this without smiling at least once.
Unfortunately, War of the Whiskers is way too easy. There’s three difficulty modes – Easy, Medium, and Hard – and even on Hard, it’s not that much more challenging than Medium. Only after setting the difficulty to Hard and raising the handicap for the CPU opponents in Quick Game and Tournament did the gameplay even resemble any form of challenge. And that’s only because the CPU opponents become damage sponges. Basically, all of the characters have the same attacks and there’s no real depth to the combat. If you manage to land a few punches in succession, you’ll perform a little combo. But all you really need to do is spam the special attacks to win. There really isn’t much to it. Even the CPU opponents barely try to smack you around. They’ll just run around looking for objects and weapons. There’s a decent variety of weapons and objects, and they match the arena you’re currently fighting in, but even they don’t add much to the gameplay. Depending on what the object is, you can either use it as a melee weapon or throw it. That’s it.
The Tournament and Quick Game modes let you select up to four characters. You can either assign characters to teams or just make it a free-for-all. The CPU opponents are pushovers and I think the only real challenge comes from battling it out with friends. I would even say War of the Whiskers is easier than Fists of Furry. You can blast through the Challenge mode in under fifteen minutes with each character. You wouldn’t even need to use any weapons. It’s easy to predict what the CPU is going to do and if you master catching thrown objects, it can be extremely easy to win rounds without taking any damage. It’s a shame because Fists of Furry had the exact same problem and you would think with new mechanics add in, there would be at least a little more depth and challenge. But no. Even the boss battles here are easier than the ones in Fists of Furry.
When it comes to the presentation, the developers really managed to capture the feel of the Tom and Jerry cartoons. From the character designs to the little details, this game delivers in terms of aesthetics. Now the music is easily the greatest thing about this game. I would even say it’s worth the purchase alone. Just like in Fists of Furry the music consists of classic jazz, orchestral, and big band stuff that matches what you would hear in the cartoons. All of the music is catchy and just phenomenal. If this game has a soundtrack, I want it, and it’s easily the best part of the presentation. Another positive is that War of the Whiskers runs perfectly smooth. Unlike Fists of Furry on the 64, the frame rate in War of the Whiskers is solid and I only noticed it dip once.
I would only recommend Tom and Jerry in War of the Whiskers to fans of Fists of Furry, the Tom and Jerry cartoons, or just cartoons in general. It’s not a really a bad game, it’s just that it could have been better. It’s way too easy and the only replay value comes in the form of unlocking characters and costumes. You can probably unlock everything in a day but, sadly, the content really wasn’t enough to keep me engaged. If anything, the visuals and nods to the cartoon are well worth at least checking this out and the music alone is worth the purchase. Like I said in our review of Fists of Furry, if you don’t like Tom and Jerry, you have a problem, so I would definitely recommend you check out War of the Whiskers but don’t go hunting for it. It’s great to play in short bursts and the only real challenge comes from playing with friends. Still, it’s one of the best cartoon-based games I’ve ever played but there are far better arena style brawlers out there.