Tom and Jerry: War of the Whiskers is a fighting game of sorts. It's even rated T for Teen due to its comic violence. Nevertheless, with cute characters like Tom the tomcat and his mouse pal/archenemy, Jerry, the game's target audience definitely isn't the same as the one flocking to the latest iterations of Tekken or Virtua Fighter.
Indeed, War of the Whiskers has more in common with the likes of Nintendo's recent Super Smash Bros. Melee--except that it doesn't contain an adventure mode and the gameplay is much more basic. The cast includes seven familiar characters (Tom, Jerry, Spike, Tyke, Nibbles, Butch, and Duckling), as well as four more created just for this game (Eagle, Lion, Robot Cat, and Monster Jerry). There are 10 different fighting arenas, all of which feature themes that are based on settings from the cartoon show, such as a haunted house, a cruise ship, or the kitchen.
Most of the fighting arenas, with the exception of the cruise ship, are spacious and contain plenty of furniture and makeshift weapons to use against your opponents. Weapons vary depending on the setting, but they generally fall into three categories: throwing, stabbing, and exploding. For example, in the kitchen, you can throw eggs found in a carton resting near the fridge at your opponent, jab at him or her with a fork that's located near the sink, or splatter him or her with a watermelon that's sitting atop the stove. Each environment also has a timed disaster that occurs at regular intervals, just to keep you on your toes. These can range from minor obstacles, such as ghosts or a tornado, to massive screen-filling terrors like an avalanche or a sea serpent.
Aside from the abundance of weapons and a few unpredictable disasters, the gameplay in War of the Whiskers is remarkably plain. There are only three basic attacks--punch, kick, and throw--while defensive moves include merely a jump and a block. If you land a hefty attack on your opponent, health items that can increase your stamina may appear. After a few successful attacks, your rage meter will fill up, allowing you to enter berserk mode and dole out twice the damage. Besides these specific situations, there are two other power-ups that appear randomly: a force field that protects you from attacks and a green gas cloud that drains your stamina.
If all this sounds a lot like Tom and Jerry: Fists of Furry for the Nintendo 64, the similarities are not accidental. VIS, who developed War of the Whiskers, as well as Rockstar's best-selling State of Emergency, also developed Fists of Furry. The overall gameplay and weapons are identical in both games, but the series' graphics have been updated to PlayStation 2 levels for this sequel.
Although the settings in Tom and Jerry: War of the Whiskers look ugly compared with the highly stylized gardens and arenas of Tekken 4 or Virtua Fighter 4, fans of the animated series will enjoy how faithful the video game is to the cartoon. The 10 fighting environments are full of color and rich with detail, right down to the shark-infested waters of the beach and the car crusher in the scrap yard. In addition, you can climb just about anywhere and damage just about anything. The character models for Tom, Jerry, and the rest of the cast are similarly adequate--they're large, cute, and full of funny expressions, but they're not nearly as fluid or realistic as the characters in many other fighting games.
Surprisingly, there are no introductory or closing cinematic sequences that show Tom and Jerry exhibiting their unique form of slapstick humor. You'd expect that a video game based on a hilarious cartoon would pay some homage to its namesake, but instead, your reward for completing the game is the next available character is unlocked.
The music and voice samples are on par with those of the majority of cartoon-licensed video games. Stand-ins provide the grunts, groans, and taunts for the characters, while cheesy new studio music replaces the cheesy old studio music featured in the cartoon.
Even though it doesn't stack up to other fighting games in terms of depth or polish, Tom and Jerry: War of the Whiskers is worthy of some respect. Much like Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Melee, the game is just plain fun. Up to four players can play thanks to the inclusion of team and tag team modes, and the matches are 90 seconds of out-and-out mayhem. Children especially will enjoy this game.