Released on Feb. 22, “Cat Burglar” is an interactive cartoon brought to life by Charlie Booker, also the creator of “Black Mirror.” This is not the first time Booker has explored interactive media—he also wrote “Bandersnatch,” a standalone “Black Mirror” film that debuted in 2018.
Reminiscent of “Tom and Jerry,” “Cat Burglar” follows a chase between guard dog Peanut and criminal Rowdy Cat, who is attempting to rob a museum of its most valuable painting. Viewers’ choices influence how successful Rowdy Cat is, leaving viewers to root for the villain .
The interactive element differs from what we may be used to. Rather than choose which path Rowdy Cat can take, viewers answer three trivia questions as a timer runs down. If they answer correctly, Rowdy Cat will be successful in whatever trickery he’s currently partaking in. If not, Peanut will defeat the burglar, leading to his somewhat gruesome demise.
But no fear, because cats have nine lives, right? Well, this cat has unfortunately lost six in past altercations, so he can only be revived three times. The trivia can get surprisingly difficult—it is clearly not meant for a child. You have to have a decent amount of general knowledge and be able to avoid distraction from the ongoing theatrics to focus on the questions.
If you lose all three lives, you can restart. Though Rowdy Cat starts from the beginning, the trivia and ways he tricks Peanut change, keeping the game from getting too repetitive.
Unlike other interactive animations like “Minecraft: Story Mode,” there is only one episode. Netflix displays the runtime as 12 minutes, but of course, this is entirely dependent on the viewer. In general, one can expect “Cat Burglar” to take around half an hour to complete.
The animation is inspired by older Saturday-morning cartoons, bringing about a strong sense of nostalgia despite a new tale. The images are a little grainy, but instead of distracting from, it adds to the aesthetic.
However, it would have been nice if there was an option to cater the trivia to kids. The plot and style can be misleading — it truly seems to be meant for children. Yet, it’s not really suitable for those younger than 13 years of age. Moreover, it doesn’t hold the same appeal as adult animation does, so the audience for “Cat Burglar” is quite limited.
Netflix is the first streaming platform to host interactive specials, and while most are meant for children, there’s a slowly growing collection of content better suited to adults. This includes Headspace’s “Unwind Your Mind” and “Kimmy vs. The Reverend” from “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Those hoping for character development or choices with more at stake are better off watching the latter, or Booker’s earlier work, “Bandersnatch.”
Nonetheless, “Cat Burglar” is a funny and charming watch — perfect for anyone that looks back at the toons of the 90s fondly.
Rating: 4/5 stars