May 23, 2013

Postplay : Bad Rats: the Rats' Revenge

As we all know some animals don't get along. Mice and elephants, cats and dogs and Rihanna and Chris Brown are just some examples. Another one is rats and cats.
While humans might have a tendancy to favor the latter, making them the heroes of the internet and giving them all the cheeseburgers, it's understandable that rats' aren't so keen on our four legged overlords, given their tendency to kill and eat them.
In Bad Rats: the Rat's Revenge (BRTRR) by invent4 we get a peak at the rats' side of the fight and learn that it mostly consists of sloppy attempts to kill their enemies one cat at a time.

But let's not jump the gun here. Allow me to explain what BRTRR is.
Bad rats is a physics game in which your goal is to hit a murdering device with a ball. In order to do this you place different rats and objects in the level. Each rat has it's own function. One hits the ball with a bat, another pulls it towards him with a vacuum cleaner and some simply blow up to lift the ball upwards. When the ball reaches the device, it switches on and kills the unfortunate cat standing next to it. These devices vary from chainsaws to microwaves, heavy weights, guns and so on. On occasion the animation associated with killing the cat can be funny but overall it's really goofy and over the top.

The basic premise reminds me of Armadillo Run, a game I played a few years ago and that I absolutely loved. In Armadillo Run you have to get a curled up armadillo into a blue circle and it has to stay within that circle for a couple of seconds. You create a path by building structures out of metal, rope, suspensions and so on. What's great about Armadillo Run is that the physics engine is 100% reliable and after a few levels you've got a good sense of what will work. This allows the game to focus on finding the solution to a problem and makes it easy to implement that solution.

It's a shame the same can't be said about BRTRR. Most puzzles are easy enough to see a possible solution as soon as the level is loaded. You place the rats and objects and try out your setup and you get all smug when you see that you're nearly there in just one try. Only the final rat didn't blow up quiet as you envisioned it so you move him a couple of inches and try again. To your surprise the first rat misses it's swing this time and the ball doesn't even get halfway the level. You don't change a thing and try this setup another 15 times, getting 15 different results and eventually the ball hits the chainsaw, the cat dies and a small part of you has died with it. On to the next level!

Sadly enough this is the norm rather than the exception while playing BRTRR and it's easily my number one frustration with the game. Physics engines are dangerous beasts. Even big developers like Bethesda can't prevent a mammoth from flying of now and again. That being said, when your entire game concept revolves around physics you'd better make damn sure they aren't a hindrance to the player.
In a game like BRTRR it isn't important if physics behave 100% accurate to the real world. The crucial part is that you as a player know what you can expect in order to be able to solve levels within those expectations. Part of the fun in games like Armadillo Run or even Line Rider is creating your setup piece by piece, testing it in various phases and making adjustments when needed, knowing that the parts that worked the first time will still work the 100th time assuming that you don't change anything preceding those parts.
After playing a couple of levels of BRTRR however, you expect things to behave random, taking away the temptation to find creative solutions.

On top of that BRTRR suffers from a varied assortment of bugs and mistakes. I'm sure I didn't catch 'em all but allow me to list those that I did.
  • I accidentally closed the tutorial and wasn't able to restart it
  • After finishing a level, the same level was loaded again
  • When finishing the level again, the level I normally had to play was skipped and I went on to the next one
  • A level was loaded without the HUD making it impossible to play. I couldn't access the menu using Esc and had to forcefully shutdown the game
  • By lack of autosaves I had to replay a bunch of levels following that shutdown
  • A wooden board got stuck in the floor making it impossible to complete the level
But there's one bug in particular that I want to give special attention to. Even though  all gameplay happens on a 2D plane, the ball often falls in front of the level for no apparent reason. I can only assume Invent4 made this game in a 3D engine using its default physics engine and has tried to limit that physics engine to a 2D plane. This might also explain why the gameplay is so unreliable.

In terms of graphics I can be brief. BRTRR doesn't look good, but its graphics fulfill their purpose. The game would not be more fun with better graphics. It's obvious BRTRR had to be made with a limited budget and I wouldn't be surprised if most of that budget was wasted on a failed attempt to fix the broken physics.
The low quality graphics aren't the only thing leading to this suspicion. I'm not a native English speaker and I'm sure a lot of what I write on this blog sounds awkward to those who are, but invent4 didn't even take the effort to use a spell checker. When releasing a game in a foreign language the least you can do is ask someone who speaks that language to correct your copy. I realize that this can be a costly affair but there's so little text in BRTRR that I can't imagine it to be too expensive.

I'm sure it's pretty obvious by now what my opinion on the game is. BRTRR is a foul piece of software and you shouldn't buy it, play it or gift it. If you do gift it to someone you are bad and you should feel bad.
Oddly enough I do see some lost potential in the game. Every now and then I got excited when a solution did work out the way I intended it on the first try. I often play games for Full Steam Ahead during lunch break and BRTRR was the first game to drum up a bunch of colleagues around my desk, proving that the basic concept has some merit to it. Saddly enough that's where all praise ends because this game was so poorly put together that invent4 should write a public apology.


Peter Fourheal said...

bad rats, BAAAD rats .;.

Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More

Powered by Blogger | Printable Coupons