If you had one day left, what would you do? Would you spend it with the family? Go out and have fun? Bury old grievances? There are many options, and the answer is a very personal one. Mad Rat Dead is the story of what one rat chose to do when given that chance.
What Is It?
A lab rat’s life is both boring and trying. Every day it’s the same, hang around in the cage, get poked and prodded with no real explanation as to why it’s even happening. One day, though, this rat was taken out of their cage for the last time. Before they can fathom what’s going on, they’re dead.
This rat, though, is given a second chance. Visited by the Rat God, he’s made an offer to be able to relive their last day. They will have the chance to fulfill their dream, but at the end of the day, they’ll still die, but they can die at peace.
As it turns out, this particular rat is not best pleased with being killed that way, and their wish is to take revenge on the one that has kept them in that cage and done all these things to them. Despite the best efforts of the Rat God in dissuading them from this path, the rat’s mind is made up, and he will not be diverted from his dream of revenge.
This is how you begin one of the most delightful and fun rhythm platformers on the market, by throwing animal cruelty, the meaning of life, and the need to make the most of it at you in the first five minutes.
Why Should I Care?
Once the game is done making you question all of your life choices, it gets down to business. A brief tutorial level will guide you through the basic mechanics of the game and get you familiar with the what the game wants you to do.
You have four basic abilities. You can jump, dash, drop out of the air, and charge up your next move. Each of these abilities is mapped to the controller’s face buttons. You’ll need to guide your rat through a series of levels and boss fights, using those abilities to get you through, while racing against the clock.
If that were all that there was to it, Mad Rat Dead would just be a quirky, Japanese platformer. You must get through these levels while timing your moves to the beat of the game’s soundtrack. Keep the rhythm as you jump, pounce enemies, fling yourself off walls, and avoid hazards.
If you die during a level, you can rewind time back to a point where you had yet to mess up, and give yourself a do-over. So the game isn’t unforgiving, but even with the ability to rewind, it’s still a challenging game. It’s also the sort of game where memorization and pattern recognition are going to be huge assets.
Each level is set to a different song, and you have a set amount of time to clear the level. When you’re first starting out, it’s likely you’ll fail a few times while you get used to the way the game works, but once you start feeling it, something just clicks. Yes, two cliches in a row! There really is no better way of describing it, though. You’ll start feeling the beat, both through the controller vibration and your foot-tapping, because that is going to happen with this soundtrack, and then things do just fall into place.
When they do, the game takes on a kinetic dynamism. You will very rarely ever need to use the D-pad, apart from adjusting trajectory. The rest of the motion will be done by keeping the beat.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
The Soundtrack. Seriously. For a game that starts off so very grim, it has one of the most fun and eclectic soundtracks in recent memory. The music varies from chiptune to big band to EDM and many other genres. Each track is well themed for the level it appears in, too.
After clearing each level, you’ll unlock the track in Sound Check mode, so you can listen to it whenever you like. You can also practice your inputs without fear of messing up, if you want to. You can also play levels you’ve cleared using music from other levels, to add even more variety.
Beyond that, the game has a very striking, DIY-looking art style. It looks like what old 80’s comics, magazines, and punk-rock album covers sometimes looked like.
When you combine the game’s presentation with the tight, skill-based gameplay, you end up with a game reminds you why we play games to begin with. It’s fun. Plain and simple, enjoyment. The somewhat disturbing undertones the game has may put some people off, but that’s easy to forget once the music gets its hooks into you.
Mad Rat Dead is going to be the sort of game that ends up on a hidden gems list one day. Don’t wait that long and check it out.