No, it's not the sidekick of a comic book hero. No, it's not an attachment for your camera. Flash Cat is the new racing game from Nitrome with twisting tracks in stylish 3-D, angry aliens and roadblocks to trip you up, and a mechanized spider-like creature as your vehicle — convenient for those of us who can't afford either our own mechanical spiders, or to get airlifted up to the racing tracks high above the city.
In each of the eighteen tracks, your goal is to drive your arachnid-ish vehicle to the finish line. The tracks have plenty of twists and turns, so you've got to use the left and right arrow keys to navigate the courses ahead. (While we've managed to get roads to suspend themselves thousands of feet above the ground, scientists are still clueless as to how to add guard rails to them.) To jump some of the smaller barriers in your way, use the up arrow, and use the down arrow to slow down your vehicle.
But as if scientifically non-existent guard rails wasn't enough of a problem, there are plenty of aliens inhabiting the track, air ducts to blow you off course, and large jumps that you have to hope you have enough speed to get over. Drive through the power-ups on the track to gain invincibility, weapons, extra high jumps, and even bonus points. You've got plenty of tools at your disposal to get you to the end, but can you keep up enough speed while keeping your wits about you to reach it?
Analysis: Flash Cat packs a lot of visual punch, but not without a price. The three-dimensional tracks and the backgrounds are gorgeously detailed, but the track and its features can sometimes become quite confusing. Unlike many past Nitrome games where newer features are explained as you encounter them, all you receive before a level is a quick explanation (sans visual aid), and you've got to adjust rather quickly. If you're not familiar with the visual differences between a normal wall, a broken wall, and a jump, you could end up falling back to sea level rather quickly.
In addition, your view of the track ahead is also limited to a somewhat short distance. This is likely to save the drain of trying to draw the track in its entirety ahead of you, so the game runs more smoothly. However, in some levels with longer jumps, you might get air... and not know where to land! When the track eventually does come into view, it might be too late to steer yourself back in line with it, and kitty goes skydiving without a parachute once again.
In terms of handling the cat-spider combo, one thing you need to understand is that you won't be hitting any tremendously sharp turns. You won't need to "steer," so much as just "veer." Fans of games like Mario Kart who are used to hairpin-turn power-sliding might find this a bit hard to get used to, but after a few times of oversteering yourself off the edge, you'll eventually get the hang of it.
While it might be a bit of a trial-and-error experience when you begin playing, Flash Cat still has enough visual appeal and challenging aspects to keep you coming back for more. And since it'll take a lot of coaxing to get your own cats to ride mechanical spiders, consider this a convenient alternative.
Thanks to Tobie, Danielnator, and Alex for sending this one in!