Mad Rat Dead – Review
Follow Genre: Rhythmic platformer
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America
Platform: PS4, Switch
Tested On: Switch

Mad Rat Dead – Review

Site Score
6.5
Good: Nice graphics, Cool concept.
Bad: Gameplay feels stretched out and boring at times, Music is a bit poor
User Score
9.0
(1 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

With Covid-19 still rocking the world, a game about lab rats seemingly has an awkwardly right (or wrong) timing. Coincidentally, Mad Rat Dead also kind of looks like a product made by creators who had to be in a lockdown for too long themselves. A zombie-like rat moving to the beat might be something you start to see when being indoors for too long…

Story

Mad Rat Dead starts off pretty strong by asking you a fair amount of questions about ethics. While answering, you see a rat getting dissected step by step. You quickly figure out that you are answering as the rat, which turns out to be your controllable creature. Dissected and dead does not mean gone, as a rat deity offers you a second chance to do whatever you want with your last 24 hours before you departed from the horrible experiments-filled Earth. Your rat accepts the offer and swears to take its revenge on the human who killed him, but uncovers more than he expected.

While this initial set-up is nice, Mad Rat Dead also has quite a bit of relatively useless information in conversations and cutscenes which can be annoying. Especially when failing a level and having to go through those same conversations again, trying to skip them as fast as possible does not feel “as fast as possible”. It’s perhaps a minor remark, but still worth mentioning. After all, it does add up to the game sometimes feeling a bit stretched out with its experimental gameplay that’s also somewhat dull or counter-intuitive.

Graphics

There’s nothing wrong with the graphics here. They are rather pleasant to look at. Because you will repeat the same moves in a row often, sometimes it lacks a bit of variation, but other than that, the animations and environments feel polished and professional. The cartoony style with the gritty subject is reminiscent of the flash game days on sites such as Newgrouds.com, where if anything, most games were always created with passion. This same passion is noticeable in the end result which is Mad Rat Dead, despite the gameplay.

Sound

Sound plays an important role in this game. Each level has its own background music track, and you need to time your moves on the beat. That being said, each track quite simple and tends to sound like a loop after a minute or so. It is, however, festive. Especially in combination with the clapping sound you hear with each correctly timed move, the rhythm has something uplifting. While any other sound effects are fine, the game would only really classify as a rhythm game though and not as a music game (such as Guitar Hero would also be about the music).

Gameplay

So Mad Rat Dead is a rhythmic platformer. Basically, the concept is to follow the beat of your heart which produces music. You do so by pressing different buttons or combinations at the right moment. If you don’t press them at the right moment, they don’t have much effect and you will fail to i.e. jump properly. The available buttons quickly turn into a jump, dash forwards, or dash down. By the lack of combinations and by following repetitive patterns, the platforming aspect disappears somewhat which seems like a missed opportunity. You follow trails of pick-ups while on a timer, trying to reach the end of the level past obstacles and enemies. Enemies can feel wonky, making fighting while keeping the rhythm a bit of a puzzle as well, because you need to approach opponents from a certain angle to be able to take them down.

You can learn and train what to do exactly, but the gameplay will still feel stretched. Like the slow speed of conversations and cutscenes, when making a mistake in the game, it feels like you are being punished. You see, you can’t really die, only run out of time to complete a level. When being “dead” anyway, a heart-shaped clock will pop up which allows you to tick back the frames to a moment before you died. Setting the clock does not feel very intuitive and mainly makes you watch a few useless frames before you can try again. These moves make the game less attractive, especially when dying at the same spot over and over while it takes longer to revive than to play the game.

Those are the negative sides. The positive is that the game does have an increase in difficulty over time, and trying to get the highest possible combo can be addicting. Still, the combination of platforming and rhythm is a cool experiment, especially as it’s not a rhythmic runner such as BIT.TRIP RUNNER. At the same time, the freedom gained by not making it a railed game does not feel fully optimized, making this a game you will mainly enjoy for short amounts of time as the required skills and buttons on the same rhythm in each level might start to bore you over a longer amount of time. There are i.e. boss fights present, but even those feel like they go on for too long.

Conclusion

While being a cool experiment that hasn’t really failed, Mad Rat Dead feels like it’s also missing some variation over time. Part platformer and part rhythmic game, both could have used less of the same. The music isn’t great while still uplifting, and eventually, you will mostly want to play this one in short bursts if anything.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Mad Rat Dead - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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Find me on youtube to see some playthroughs! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBrlulGywcb0EiYWBnA1ng

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