Friday, June 02, 2006

Mighty Rodent Review

Mighty Rodent, developed and published by Jagged Blade Games.
The Good: Challenging enemies, simple controls, weapon upgrades, advantages for discontinuous firing
The Not So Good: Can become monotonous, some difficulty from numbers
What say you? An arcade shooter with just barely enough originality to make it delightful: 6/8

Science fact: rodents make up more than half of all mammalian species. The 2,000 to 3,000 types of rodents include squirrels, mice, porcupines, and rats. Most of these animals are considered pests, but they have recently risen up in an effort to save the world from an alien invasion. Brining this breaking news to light is the semi-fictional game Mighty Rodent, which features Sgt. Fluffles and his battle against the evil invaders. Any game that features a giant hamster with a gun strapped to its back smoking a cigar should prove to be at least mildly interesting, right?

For a two dimensional shooter, Mighty Rodent has some decent graphics. All of the models in the game are detailed, the backgrounds are interesting, and the weapon effects are well done. Sure, the game doesn’t have cutting edge 3-D effects, but it doesn’t need to, and the game doesn’t suffer from not having them. Mighty Rodent does just find with its array of 2-D sprites and explosions. The sound is along the same lines: average but they get the job done.

Mighty Rodent features 35 levels of shooting goodness, in both single player and multiplayer mode. You can play through the standard campaign, arcade (single level) mode, or just against the bosses. Aiming is done by moving the mouse, which will also move your rodent around the map so that you can avoid falling ordinance. The controls are straightforward and easy to learn; having simplified controls involving just the mouse eliminates some complexity other games needlessly have in assigning more buttons than necessary. Of course, two player mode will require the second player to use the keyboard or a joystick, which is much more challenging. Mighty Rodent was designed to be played using the mouse. The enemies you will be dispatching come in 22 varied forms and have different levels of intelligence. Some enemies will just randomly drop bombs on you, while others will actually try to aim. This could be considered sophisticated AI for an arcade shooting game and it provides a worthy challenge. Strangely, the game does resort to throwing a bunch of enemies at you to increase the difficulty when it doesn’t really need to; this actually results in making Mighty Rodent trickier than needed. For those tough spots, you can deploy a bomb that eliminates all of the enemies on the screen in one fiery explosion of doom.

The gameplay is mostly standard arcade shooter fare. I do, however, enjoy that the game rewards sporadic shooting. In most arcade games, you can just hold down the fire button the entire game and just aim. However, if you resist the urge to fire for a short period of time (usually the longest two seconds of your life), your next shot will be an extra powerful beam that will cause a lot of damage. This is a great idea that rewards more strategic and careful aiming. At the end of each level, you can spend the coins you collected (which defeated enemies drop) to receive stat increases to your rodent, including extra lives, more powerful shields, and better weaponry. This has become a fairly standard inclusion recently in arcade shooters, and it’s thankfully found in Mighty Rodent as well.

Mighty Rodent is a good arcade shooter. The intelligence of the AI, the upgrade system, and the reward for more strategic shooting makes it a memorable title among the slew of shooters. The game does tend to play the same throughout, so some players may become bored after a while. The game does become hectic and almost an exercise in luck (successfully avoiding falling bullets) instead of skill at times, but overall Mighty Rodent is fun to play. It’s not a terribly original game, but the gameplay is solid enough to make it a recommended title.