Rats – Time is Running Out Review
Just recently I played a game called The Swindle that contained themes of stealth, burglary and steampunkiness, and I loved it. Rats – Time is Running Out is a game of similar themes—and even in game-play in some respects—but contains plenty of differences as well. Let’s check ’em out.
Visually, Rats is pleasing, but remains uncommitted to revealing any kind of real flair or style. Basically, the stage art and character illustrations are all solid, but aren’t going to bring anyone to tears. Nothing about it looks amateur in any way, but the simple cartoon drawings look similar to something you would see in a well-made iPad game. Like-wise, the music gets the job done, but doesn’t offer anything wildly entertaining. Nothing is too annoying, but nobody is going to be buying the soundtrack either. And as for plot, it’s like some kind of Robin Hood thing. Nothing particularly consequential.
Nothing about the presentation of Rats was bad; it does its job, goes home to its ungrateful family, eats a gallon of ice cream and falls asleep to some Netflix—and that’s okay. I consider that kind of setup to be a double-or-nothing bet on the part of the developer. Sure, a game can be fun, replayable, addicting and memorable without stellar graphics or plot, but if that’s the case, then the game-play has to take the full weight of the experience on its shoulders and really knock the fun level out of the park. But in the face of that, I’m going to say once again that Rats is playable, but not gripping.
The core game-play revolves around walking around buildings looking for the large diamond (that everyone inexplicably keeps in their home), and escaping before the timer runs out. The timer is affected by certain actions while playing the level—some avoidable, some not. The enemies are all very similar to each other, with the main difference being the size and shape of their line of sight. If you are caught by a guard, you lose time. But also simply opening up a door knocks a couple seconds off your limit. If you run out of time, a very fast bear-cop chases you around and makes you lose if he catches you.
There are coins you can grab, and special cheeses that give you abilities, and even tools you can buy with your coins to help you out in a pinch. The pace that you receive new abilities matches the gradually increasing size of the stages and the scope of the obstacles that stand in your way. It’s all done quite well, honestly. But it doesn’t keep me coming back for more, and I think I know why.
Pretty much the only thing you do in Rats is move up, down, left or right. You can’t jump, or slide, or climb, or punch, or eat banana splits, pick scabs, or violate restraining orders. Sure there are tools you can acquire, but so far every one I’ve acquired has been passive. That is, they work without me having to do anything. Levers are activated by walking into them, doors are opened by walking through them, buttons are pressed by standing on them. You literally just use WASD for every action in the game (as far as I’ve gotten), and I’ve learned that that just doesn’t cut it for me, action-wise.
Rats – Time is Running Out is a good game in many respects. The art is fine, the game mechanics work, and everything runs smoothly. But no matter how many special cheeses or passive tools I received as I went along, it didn’t make me care too awful much if I beat the level or not. The enemies and tasks were all too similar, and the controls were as simple as it comes. But having said that, if and when Rats comes out on tablet, I think it would fit much more naturally in that format and I could recommend it further.