Nippon Ichi Software’s latest game, Mad Rat Dead, is a quirky mash-up of two very different genres – a platforming adventure game with rhythm-based controls. You are in control of a lab rat who has spent his whole life in a cage being experimented upon. After finally coming to the end of his miserable existence he gets a visit from the mysterious Rat God. She gives our Mad Rat the chance to go back in time and relive his last day. This will give him the chance to fulfil his final wish – to take revenge on the human who put him in that cage.
While I was initially intrigued to see if Mad Rat managed to fulfil his heart’s desire I soon got bored of the many cutscenes. In a game like this there really is no need to have a long cutscene after every single level. To be honest I couldn’t even tell you what happened in most of them as they weren’t particularly memorable. Thankfully the actual gameplay is far more interesting then the story.
The gameplay itself is fairly easy to understand. You need to get through to the end of each level by jumping on platforms, bouncing between walls, avoiding obstacles, and killing enemies. What makes it tricky is that you need to do all of this in time to the music.
Each level has a different funky and up-beat track, courtesy of a whole host of artists including Dyes Iwasaki, Camellia, and a_hisa, to name just a few. The tunes are incredibly catchy and I found myself humming along to many of them long after I’d switched the game off. There are a few levels where the music gets a bit chaotic and tricky to follow but this matches well with Mad Rat’s gradually crumbling state of mind. In those levels the music does a great job of slowly filling you with a sense of panic, as you desperately try to keep Mad Rat alive.
At times the game can be slightly frustrating to play. When you need to jump between moving platforms and then bounce up a wall of enemies it can feel really cumbersome to have to do it all in time to the music. Sometimes nothing would align in the way that you needed it to, but then at other times I’d fly straight through some of the trickiest sections. Instead of feeling like I’d suddenly become more skilled at the game, it felt more like luck that the music and platforms were all exactly where I needed them to be.
The game does have a neat little system whereby, if you die, you can reverse time by up to twelve beats of the music. This worked much better than if it had just been a normal checkpoint system. Instead of having to repeat whole sections of a level, you instead just need to go back a few seconds so that you can fix any screw-up that you may have made.
There’s a limited amount of time to complete each level but this can be extended by collecting little cheese shaped collectibles. For the most part, the time limit is generous enough that you won’t need to pay too much attention to it. But in later levels, it can be frustrating to have to repeat the whole level from the beginning because you ran out of time. At the end of each level you’ll be given a score based on how quickly you cleared the level as well as how often you managed to perfectly move Mad Rat to the beat of the music.
Once you’ve beaten a level you can replay it to try to beat your score. You can also play through the level with different background music, and can even try your hand at hard mode. Hard mode is exactly what it says on the tin, hard. Instead of the beat being at one consistent pace throughout the level, it increases and decreases to the tune. This makes navigating tricky sections much harder as the chance of everything aligning just where you need it to be is much smaller.
My main criticism of the game is that it doesn’t really evolve much as you play it. Sure, you’ll come across new obstacles to overcome like water slowly flooding parts of a level or disappearing platforms, but none of that is particularly inventive and the way you interact with the game doesn’t really change. This means that the levels can start to feel a little repetitive.
The game does try to spice things up a bit with it’s boss fights. These happen at the end of each section of levels and there is a bit of variety to the things you’ll encounter. Sometimes you’ll be fighting enemies with exploding brains or being chased through a level by a giant hideous creature. These levels are some of the best that the game has to offer and so it’s a shame that there aren’t more of them.
If you’re a fan of rhythm games then it’s definitely worth checking out Mad Rat Dead. The vibrant punk aesthetic and catchy soundtrack alone makes it worth a gander. But for those of you that are rhythmically challenged then this is a harder sell. The repetitive levels and dull story aren’t going to do much for those gamers that are just looking for a fun platformer.
Mad Rat Dead review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.
6.5 Catchy soundtrack Vibrant cartoon punk aesthetic Fun boss fights Handy time reversal mechanic Regular levels are repetitive Story loses momentum quite quicklyTags: Mad Rat Dead, Nippon Ichi Software, NIS America Share this article on facebook
SHARE Share this article on twitter