Yosio Ishii's love of cats is the basis of the Neko series, an adorable (if a bit bland in appearance) collection of games starring cats (pronouced "neko" in Japanese). And while his previous work was exclusively Shockwave games, it appears that he has made the switch to Flash with his more recent efforts.
Neko Juppiki is one of his recent Flash-based designs. In this Lemmings-like game you start out with a large group of cats on the top platform of the stage. The object of the game is to get as many of the cats as possible down to the bottom, by manipulating traps and trap doors. Each time you click the screen about half of the trap doors will open, but also about half of the traps will also activate trying to bring your kittens to a spiky demise. The cats will often end up on different levels, so you have to juggle keeping them safe with delicate timing to keep them all alive. Two modes of play are available: the first allows you to lose up to 10 cats before it's game over; the second mode a bit more hardcore, in which the death of a single cat means game over. Click.
Kumo Neko is one of his older Shockwave games and it is a lot of fun to play. In this game you have to swing around on a rope and interact with various pegs dotted around the stages as you try to collect jewels and avoid diamonds (the shape, not the jewel). Just press the mouse button and the cat repels and swings from the stretching rope. On some levels it becomes necessary to move the fulcrum to another peg, by pressing a key (any key will do) just as the rope hits a peg, as the entire play field for a level may be much larger than the game window. It is in this way that you can make your way around the level.
Once you've gathered all the jewels a 'goal' will appear that you must then make it to before you can move on to the next level. Sounds easy, right? It isn't. The diamonds are located precariously near the jewels, and at points in the game you may swing to places you cannot even see. You will have to make split second moves, or guesses, to avoid diamonds lurking near the sometimes elusive jewels. Click.
Analysis: The Neko series of games isn't very amazing with respect to graphics and supporting sound. The graphics are comprised of only two colors throughout, though the use of the grayish blue was somewhat reminiscent of an old Nintendo game, so I was able to appreciate it. The sound is just as basic, with only a few sound effects in Kumo Neko and none in Neko Juppiki. But since the sound only plays a supporting role to the gameplay, it doesn't pose much of an issue at all. However, I would like to see improved graphics in the future.
The games are so simple that they do not leave a lot of room for flaws in the game play. A few times the game was a little inconsistent about whether I could swing through the diamonds when traveling at higher speeds in Kumo Neko, and my cats sometimes went a bit too far beyond the walls in Neko Juppiki; but other than that they ran extremely well.
As with all games in the Neko series, the games were simple yet attractive, and perfect for a quick pick-me-up during the afternoon, or during a lunch break. I recommend not only checking Juppiki and Kumo, but also the other games in the series, too.