Monday, August 24, 2009

Bad Rats Review

Bad Rats, developed and published by Invent4 Entertainment.
The Good: Numerous rat types and objects, varied difficulty levels with solutions for every puzzle, disturbingly violent, lengthy for the really cheap price
The Not So Good: Slightly inconvenient interface, no level editor, 2-D maps get slightly repetitive
What say you? A pleasantly bloody physics puzzle game: 6/8

The historical struggle between cats and mice has been well documented, from Tom and Jerry to Warehouse Mouse and the Imagination Movers. While cats always had the size advantage, mice excelled in being sneaky and hiding in walls. Now, the playing field has been severely tipped in the rodent direction with Bad Rats. Equipped with weapons and other special abilities, it's just a matter of time before cats blow up in this physics-based puzzle game. This concept obviously has wide appeal: I mean, who hasn't wanted to microwave a cat using a Rube Goldberg device?

Though the game takes place in two dimensions, Bad Rats features 3-D graphics that look pretty good for an independent game. All of the rat models are inventive and well animated (and a little offensive, in the case of the suicide bomber), and the cat deaths are amusingly violent affairs. The puzzles take place in the same warehouse setting, which does tend to get repetitive after a while. The sound effects are basic, with appropriate sounds for each in-game event (explosions, for example) and subtle background music. While I was not impressed with the presentation, Bad Rats does a decent enough job providing a cartoon-inspired atmosphere.

Bad Rats involved subjecting cats to unspeakable evils by guiding a ball towards their chosen path to death. Decapitating cats was never so much fun! The game has a satisfactory amount of content from the low, low price of $5: forty-four levels. Some of the levels don't take too long to complete, under a minute for a superstar such as myself, but things get tougher as you progress through the game. They become slightly repetitive after a while, since the 2-D nature of the map design tends to get old: there are only so many ways you can bounce a ball over an obstacle towards a microwave with a cat inside. The lack of a level editor is somewhat surprising, since you would think it'd be rather straightforward to make some 2-D creations. You can compare your scores on the Internet against other cat murderers, and there are some Steam achievements to be had. The game does not automatically save your progress, but provides a password to access unlocked levels; it's easier just to manually save your progress. Bad Rats features two difficulty levels, and “easy” gives you hints towards a solution by restricting the pieces you have to play with and displaying proper positions for those pieces. Since the hints tell you where to place things but not specifically what to place, it strikes a nice balance between being helpful and giving the answers away. There are typically only one or two solutions, but since the game suggests them, I don't have a huge problem with the lack of total flexibility.

Bad Rats is like Lemmings, but way more violent. You will place various objects around the room in order to trigger a bomb/microwave/machete/chainsaw that causes a cat to meet untimely death. The interface could use some more polish: all of the objects are located below the map off-screen; accessing them requires you to constantly pan up and down, which gets annoying. Objects can be rotates and flipped by right-clicking on them in order to get the angles correct. There are ten rat types, including suicide bombers, rocketeers, archers, and fat rats. In addition, you get typical physics-based items like crates, drums, and planks. The physics are executed well, with plausible results from your open-ended creations. Some of the puzzles require very specific solutions with exact timing, so it can get frustrating after a while. Still, the game has a solid base and introduces some unique elements.

Bad Rats is a good puzzle game. While the basics of the game have been done numerous times before, triggering events using contraptions and physics, the unique rat abilities and unnecessary feline violence make the game stand out. The game is very cheap at only $5, and for that price you get forty-four levels: a good value. The game lacks a level editor, some that would have been possible given the game's 2-D puzzles, but there is enough content here to certainly justify that bargain price. The varied rats and their abilities make for some unique solutions, all of which are outlined at the easy difficulty setting to reduce frustration significantly. The interface could be easier to use, as all of your objects are inconveniently off-screen and require constant panning of the camera to access. The graphics and sound design are solid enough, and the realistic physics round out a solid puzzling package. Puzzle fans should certainly check out this title for a very small monetary investment.