I have but nine lives to give for my country
I have to admit that when I got this game, I was very skeptical. I mean, c'mon! What would you think about a game that had a bunch of disproportionate cartoon cats and mice on its cover! I was expecting yet another lame platformer, but instead got a fairly entertaining game. I repeat: despite appearances, Rat Attack is not a completely stupid game!
As usual, the plot is throwaway: Two evil mutated mice, Jefferson and Washington, are trying to take over the world by overpopulating it with mice. Its up to a group of super-powered felines, dubbed the Scratch Cats, to make right by capturing and destroying mice that they come across.
The most incredible thing about this game is the gameplay. It can be extremely addicting in the right quantities. Each level is a small room with a certain set of objects, obstacles, and bonuses. In order to beat the level, you must capture mice, step on a destructor pad to destroy them, then get out of the level before time runs out.
When you capture mice, you don't use a simple gun or something boring like that. You have to create a lasso around them by running around the mice, and then nab them by releasing it. Any rats that are surrounded are captured, so there's some strategy to getting the most mice into the lasso at one time. (I'll bet my cat would've loved an electronic device that let him catch rats.) You also have the choice of knocking the mice out and grabbing them, or knocking them out and having other objects (vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, ghosts, etc.) kill them for you.
You get more points for stepping on the destructor pad with more mice, but if you get hit with mice in your pack, all your mice escape, and then you have to catch them all again. So you have to decide if the risk is worth it.
While you're trying to round up mice, they are trying to destroy the room you're in. You get extra points for keeping all of the objects intact in each level, and you die if the room get completely trashed. There are special mice which can mutate into evil things which are hard to kill, special pads which duplicate mice, teleport pads, fans, powerups, powerdowns (which chase after your cat), and much more! Combine all of these things, and you have very rapid, fast paced game, which doesn't get old easily.
An interesting addition to the game is the ability to select your cat. There are six initially selectable cats, each with its own speed, capture power, and strength stats, as well as a special ability. This allows you to select a style of play. Get an ultra-fast cat with low power and strength to be able to quickly grab small groups of mice, or play a cat with high power to allow you to grab more mice at a time.
The game is even more fun in multiplayer. If you have the four-player adapter, you can even use it to e-rat-icate rodents with three of your buds. There are three different types of multiplayer games, each with its own merits. There's one where each player has their own color of rat, and the goal is to kill your own rats, while keeping their opponents from killing their color, and another is a normal game with a point race, where the person with the most points at the end wins. There is one problem with the multiplayer though: It has a steep learning curve. In the single player games, the levels get more difficult gradually, giving you time to adjust. The multiplayer levels, on the other hand, just throw you into the fray. But once your friends get the hang of it, it's a blast.
The graphics, although not revolutionary by any standards, are pretty good for the type of game. The authors traded detailed texture maps for speed, which really is necessary when there are twenty mice on the screen at a time. Everything is bright and cartoony, which goes well with the game concept. However, the camera can get a little annoying. Although it's stationary, it turns to try to keep all the action on the screen at one time. But, because of the size of the levels, it can turn your cats into pint-sized felines, making it hard to see where you are. This can be a big problem in really frantic levels. I've sometimes found myself watching a rat, thinking that it was my character! But the controls are on target, so if you can see your cat, you can move him easily.
Rat Attack is a mixed bag: A great, original game concept, mixed with flawless controls, reasonable graphics, and annoying camera tracking. Together they add up to a solid, mildly flawed, but still entertaining game. Definitely worth a rental with some friends.