Golf With Your Friends

Golf with your Friends is a fun multiplayer title, but a wonky physics engine and over reliance on gimmicks saps the enjoyment in many places.

Golf With Your Friends is a minigolf game developed by Blacklight Interactive, and published by Team 17. You might know Team 17 for things like Worms or The Escapists. Or maybe for that moment earlier this year when they tried to make NFTs. PCGamer has a fairly good writeup on that whole fiasco here.

Back to Golf With Your Friends. It’s a minigolf game that supports up to 12 player multiplayer. There are a dozen or so courses of 18 holes to play through in the base game, and an entire Steam workshop of other courses of varying quality.

As a minigolf game, it’s… pretty good! Decent. Passable. B-. The big issue I have with it is that the physics engine is incredibly wonky. There’ll be portions of the game where everything seems reasonable and consistent. Then it’ll break completely with no rhyme or reason.

Here’s an example. One course has a set of moving platforms that move up and down. For one set of friends, they were able to hit their ball onto these platforms. The ball would stop moving and they’d be able to hit off the platform. For me, every time I hit a ball onto it, the ball bounced, never stopped moving, then clipped through the bottom of the platform and went out of bounds. Originally I thought this was the result of lag, or some client side weirdness. Then it happened multiple times in the level editor in single-player.

And the more I played of the game, the more of these weird moments cropped up. Ramps that behaved inconsistently. Vacuum pipes that didn’t vacuum up the ball. Finishing an entire round without some sort of bug or weirdness is a rarity on par with the Ark of the Covenant.

I found Golf With Your Friends best as a multiplayer game. Multiplayer serves a duel purpose of making golf bearable and as an excuse for the bugs. There are people out there who can find joy in mechanical repetition and mastery of a task, and we call those people athletes and speedrunners. I find joy in waiting for my friends to line up for a perfect shot, then knocking their ball into the water by smashing into it with my own. Also crowing about absolutely nailing a hole in one that was complete luck.

Your friend group might not interact like a group of self-cannibalizing jackals, though. In that case, you can turn collisions off. Golf With Your Friends has a variety of game options, including hole type, ball type, collisions, max stroke and time limits, jumping, collisions, and powerups. While this variety of settings is good for custom levels, and tweaking gameplay to suit your friend group, not all of the options feel like they were actually tested.

For example, you can play with a cube, instead of a ball. For a large number of courses, it is straight up impossible to actually get this piece of trash into the hole. And even the more subtle tweaks, such as making things extra bouncy, can have unintended consequences. On one course, having a ball that was larger meant that a launcher gimmick would fail every time. This would have been less annoying if it wasn’t the only way to the hole.

Now let’s talk about gimmicks. Most courses in the game have some form of trick or gimmick. Some of these are fine, like the small number of moving objects in the forest course. Some are obnoxious, or confusing, like the magic platforms in the ancient course. And some are pointlessly stupid, such as the non-stop explosions in the worms course. They’re not enough to make it unplayable, but they do make it pointlessly difficult. And these obstacles also tend to be buggy.

There’s one more thing I want to talk about before I wrap this article up, and that’s the game’s built-in level editor. It allows you to make and publish your own courses to the Steam Workshop.

It is also one of the most garbage pieces of software I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. Hotkeys are an absolute nightmare, Y is up and Z is sideways. The resize tools work differently for each object. You can’t group move objects. You can’t group copy objects. The level editor has a “Play Mode” which can be used to test courses, but remember all those game mode options I mentioned above? You can’t actually turn any of them on while testing, so you’re stuck playing vanilla golf.

Despite all of those issues, I actually did make a course I called “Pain Mountain,” and if you’re curious, you can play it here. It’s not the only Pain Mountain on the Steam Workshop though, so a rebrand may be necessary. The Pain Mountain tourism board is looking into it.

And that’s Golf With Your Friends. A reasonable minigolf game, but with a large number of bugs and weird behaviors, a usable but aggravating level editor, and multiplayer that’s fun, but not consistent. It’s not very polished, but it is fun. It’s also several years old, and is no longer the only multiplayer minigolf game out there. If you want to play, you can buy it on Steam here, but I’d suggest waiting for a sale so you can pick up a few copies to play with your friends.

Minecraft Dungeons

I spent months seeing ads for Minecraft Dungeons and assuming it was a fancy Minecraft mod. As it turns out it’s a completely different game. It uses Minecraft textures, sounds, creatures, and trappings (like the currency is emeralds), but its actually an Action RPG.

Blocky Diablo would also be accurate.

If you’re new the genre, ARPG is just a fancy name for a Diablo clone. It’s a 3rd person top down dungeon crawler where you collect loot and level up your character. As a big fan of Diablo II and a big fan of Minecraft, you might expect that this would be my kind of game… and you’d mostly be right.

I mostly enjoyed Minecraft Dungeons. While I didn’t play much endgame content or go to the much harder difficulties, I did clear the full story, and some of the postgame, and had a good time with it.

However, I have three fundamental problems with the game

  1. Lack of twangy guitar music.
  2. Consumable arrows.
  3. Map readability and collision.

While issue one pretty much speaks for itself, issue two is a bit more nuanced. Why does it matter that Minecraft Crayons has consumable arrows? To explain that, let’s talk about how the game handles skills.

Minecraft Funyons has an interesting “class” system. I put class in quotes because there are no set classes; how your character approaches the game depends entirely on what kind of gear you wear and enchantments you apply. If you want to be a rogue, you equip armor that makes you deal more physical damage. To be a tank, you equip armor that reduces the damage you take. If you want to be a caster, you equip armor that reduces the cooldowns on your artifacts (effectively your abilities), and then equip artifacts that deal damage. And if you want to be an archer, you equip armor that gives you extra ranged damage and extra arrows.

The problem is that the arrow economy is such that even with bonus arrow armor, enchantments, and artifacts, you STILL run out of arrows at some point each run. With at most 10 de facto classes, it’s a strange design choice to make one of them effectively unplayable.

My third issue was map readability. While the Minecraft style maps are very pretty, because all the elements are visually similar, I often found it hard to quickly figure out which terrain was walkable and which blocked me. And that’s a big problem when trying to make a split second decision with a million mobs following me. Hit a wall, and you’re dead.

Being pinned against terrain by a wave of enemies wouldn’t be terrible if the standard roll ability let you roll through the enemies, but it doesn’t, unlike almost every game I’ve ever played with a dodge. It also doesn’t actually dodge hits. All it does is give you a quick burst of speed followed by being slowed. Looking back, I found this design decision this most frustrating part of the game.

And there are a few other things that don’t quite make sense to me. The enchantment system seems to be built to encourage you to try out new sub builds frequently. But this never really worked. There are only two ways to get your enchantment points/levels back to try out a new item or build.

Option 1 is to salvage the original item, getting rid of it. If you do this and then don’t like your new build, you’re shit out of luck. Option 2 is go give your items to the Blacksmith, which gives you back your enchantment points, and then upgrades the item after your clear 3 levels. But again, if you don’t like your build, you’re still shit out of luck, abeit only for 3 runs. Why there isn’t just a “refund enchantment points” button is beyond me.

The game is also a bit buggy. While none of these are “Eat your savefile” or “Crash your machine” levels of bugs, they’re still annoying. For example, I fought a miniboss at the start of a level, and then spent the entire level listening to the dramatic boss music. Almost every chest you open spews some consumable items out of the level, entirely wasting them. Another time I rolled in the middle of combat and got stuck in a hole in the map.

Overall, I did have fun with it, even if it was somewhat simple. It honestly felt like the game was initially designed as a roguelike, but at some point they changed it to a perpetual gear chase. The addition of the Tower, a game mode that is quite literally a roguelike adds to that theory.

Minecraft Dungeons is available on pretty much every platform, and also has cross-play between all of them. So if you’re looking for a solid, but simple ARPG you can play with other folks, grab a copy, and sit back. Just be prepared to deal with some annoyances along the way. And if you’re still on the fence, you can read more about it here.

Ed Note: The post-game content is actually surprisingly extensive, and decent. I played it even if Max didn’t. It functions similar to PoE’s mapping system, in that the zones themselves are remixes of previously cleared areas with increased mob variety and specialties. It also has it’s own special gear chase with gilded items and whatnot. TLDR: Postgame good!

Satisfactory – Take #2

A while back, I wrote a post on Satisfactory. However, I don’t think it was particularly satisfactory, haha, I’m so clever, wordplay. Okay, that’s out of my system. Anyway. I’m not super happy with how it came out. So I’m gonna give this a second shot, because Satisfactory deserves a more focused review.

What type of game is Satisfactory?

One of the things I’m the most unhappy with in the last article I did on this game is how I actually described Satisfactory, because I really didn’t. I think at least part of this is because Satisfactory doesn’t quite fit into any video game genres particularly well. While you could call a Automation game, or maybe a sim, it’s not really a sim of anything, and most of the elements in the game aren’t particularly… sim-esque. (For who does think Satisfactory is a Sim, please go run 3000 MW through 3 inches of cabling, over several miles, and let me know how well that experience matches up with doing the same in Satisfactory.)

Instead, I think Satisfactory might be closer to a genre of board game, the engine builder. Engine builders as a genre are mostly about building sets of systems to take actions and produce resources, all of which ultimately get turned into victory points. Most board games with this system have some sort of win-lose condition, but this isn’t present in Satisfactory.

But Satisfactory does have a lot of what I’d consider to be the hallmarks of engine builders. There are a variety of resources, and you turn them into other resources. As you progress, you get access to both new types of equipment, and more powerful/faster versions of the equipment you already had. This access is gated by having your current setup produce certain thresholds of resources.

Why is it good?

Regardless of what genre you want to put the game in, Satisfactory can be really good. The animations and models are incredibly polished*, the gameplay is smooth and satisfying*, watching conveyer belts spin up is enjoyable*, and I really like the semi-parallel tech trees.

*If you’re wondering what that asterisk is for: Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Lets talk about those tech trees for a moment, because unlocking them serves as both a combination of progression and tutorial. We’re mostly going to focus on the Tier progression tree here. There are several other systems in place that also unlock building items and craftable items, but they’re mostly sidegrades/semi-optional. Except for the ladder. I have no idea why the ladder is in the coupon machine.

Here’s how tier progression works. There are 8 tiers of research, and within those tiers, there are research goals. Once you unlock a tier, you usually unlock a few new structure types, the ability to see what unlocking the next tier will require, and the list of research goals.

As an example: I can work on unlocking improved logistics, or a jetpack, but neither of those will progress me to Tier 7-8.

At any given point in time, making progress on a tech tree is your general goal, usually requiring you to craft somewhere between 50-1000 of various different parts.

But the main gameplay of Satisfactory is building. And everything around the building is mostly designed to make it easy. For example, if you disassemble a structure, you get all the resources it took to build back.

It’s also fairly easy to switch between what you’re building, and you can look almost everything up in the in-game Codex. That’s right. No longer do you have to have a fandom Wikipedia page that consists of 95% advertisements and 5% the recipe for wood logs.

At the same time, the buildings themselves are fairly flexible in how they can be placed. You can run conveyer belts through each other, and also across things that you maybe shouldn’t be able to.

Look, the highest praise I can give Satisfactory is that each time I try to think of nice things to say about, I go boot the game up, play for 6+ hours straight, then go do something else because I’ve completely lost my train of thought. There’s a constant feeling of success and progress, even if you mess things up a bit.

Okay, nice things over. Lets talk about the somewhat… unpolished parts of Satisfactory.

The elephant in the room.

If I had been forced to guess how long Satisfactory had been out, prior to actually knowing the numbers, I would have gone somewhere between half a years, to maybe just sneaking up on two years. There are two reasons for this, the first being the combat, and the second being the multiplayer performance, and bugs. Let’s talk about the combat first.

If the combat in your game makes me LONG for Minecraft’s combat system, you’ve done something horribly wrong. Satisfactory has a combat system, but I’m honestly not sure why. From what I can tell, there are three or so types of enemies, all of which have larger more “Dangerous” versions of themselves. The dangerous is in quotes because every single enemy in the game can be dealt with in loosely the same way: Kite it behind something, and then hit it until it dies. Assuming you’ve unlocked one of the games two ranged weapons, you have the alternate option of “Stand far away and shoot it until it dies”. Lets actually talk about those weapons for a moment, because they’re awful. The entire weaponry array of Satisfactory consists of the pokey stick, the pokey stick that does more damage, a modified nail gun (which is the only one that comes anywhere close to fun to use) and the worlds most unsatisfying rifle.

Special shoutout to the rifle here as being the most joyless gun, both across real life and games that I have ever encountered. It both eats through ammo, which is a massive pain in the ass to make, has a laughably small clip size of 10 shots, and has absolutely no feedback/tracers/anything to make it clear if you’re actually hitting your target, or if shots are flying freely though the wind, and for all of that effort, it doesn’t seem to even kill things very well.

I can’t tell what the goal is here to be honest. If combat is supposed to be anemic to make us focus on building and other mechanics, why does every single resource node past a certain point have several of the higher tier enemies, who despite being dumb as bricks, also hit like a stack of them, and will force you to salty runback to where you dropped all of your stuff. If the combat and unlocks related to it are supposed to be meaningful, why do they all suck so much? It’s clear the devs already understand how to create gated zones with things like the hazmat suit and gas mask. That sort of thing is much more similar to the sort of game Satisfactory feels like it is, with the unlocks of various tools and equipment and options to make building more efficient and easier.

The thing is though, as much as I loathe the combat, it is vestigial. An annoyance when it shows up and rears it’s ugly head, but it can be ignored a good 95% of the time. The next big problem I have with the game can’t be.

Satisfactory, much like Minecraft, isn’t a game I would ever really play single player. This is because both games are about making things, and the purpose of making things, at least for me, is to show them to other people, and to see the things other people make. It also massively cuts down the labor needed, because while you’re working on optimizing iron production, your friend can be setting up a full oil refinery. I personally find exploring the world tedious, but some of the folks I was playing with enjoy it. Where there are required tasks that one person might enjoy, others like them.

All of which would be cool if multiplayer wasn’t quite as shit as it is.

“Bugginess/Stability” is kind of a weird metric. For me, the impact a bug has on my experience comes down to pretty much two factors (1) How often does the bug occur? and (2) What happens when it does? Something like Skyrim has a lot of bugs, but from what I’ve seen, they’re usually more immersion breaking then they are save file shredding. In my playthrough of Elden Ring, bugs themselves are fairly rare, but when they do occur, the game fucking crashes, and in a game where closing the game without saving is death, and death means losing all your experience points/currency if you aren’t able to get to where you dropped it, this is substantially more aggravating. I had one friend whose entire save file was corrupted and effectively died outside the door to the final boss, after 63 hours. A patch fixed that issue, and he was able to complete the game, but that’s the sort of thing that leads to an uninstall.

There are two bugs I’d like to talk about with Satisfactory multiplayer. The first is incredibly specific and straightforward: When you log into a multiplayer game, if you’re not the host, or if you’re playing on a Dedicated Server, there’s a pretty good chance you will show up with exactly nothing in your inventory. As a result, you’ll have to spend a fair amount of time running around and trying to resupply/reequip potentially each time you log in. Disconnecting and reconnecting won’t solve it, and there’s no easy fix. When I looked up this bug, I found bug reports and discussions to it that date back several years ago.

The second set of bugs are a set of bugs I’m just going to refer to as “Desync” bugs.

While I’m not a game developer, I do have a technical background, and enough knowledge to make a guess as to what I think is likely occurring to cause these bugs, and why I’m specifically calling them desync bugs. First, a brief and somewhat inaccurate crash course in one way multiplayer games work. You have a server. The server is the sole source of truth for information about the games state. Then you have clients. Clients send information about what the player is doing to the server, and the server sends world state information back to the player. Because moving things, even across the internet can only go so fast, many game clients use various tricks to make things look instantaneous, or have the game client attempt to predict what will happen in order to give a smoother experience. When the client and server can’t talk to each other fast enough, for any number of reasons, you get latency, AKA lag, AKA the server is delayed in processing client inputs and sending the client information. I’m pretty sure these bugs aren’t lag, because they happened to me almost non-stop even while running the game on the same machine I was running my dedicated server one.

Instead, there’s a second type of problem that can occur. Usually, the game server tries to send only information that the client actually needs. If the system is well designed, this will be information that is relevant to the player. If the system is not well designed, it might not do that quite as fast, or it might not refresh certain information at the rate that might be desirable. For example, loading in that the player has walked directly into a cloud of poison gas.

And because the server is the sole source of truth, the client can send instructions that directs the player into situations where they take damage on the server, before the client receives that information. To the player, it seems like they died to nothing, because the state that the server was in did not match the state of their client. This is desync.

And it is fucking everywhere in Satisfactory. Sometimes its just annoying, such as with how every single conveyer belt in the game displays what it’s moving inaccurately, and how trying to grab things off them is a complete crapshoot.

And sometimes it will just fucking kill you, because you walked into the aforementioned poison gas. Or alien bees. Or radiation. Or a pack of angry spiders. You can see where I’m going with this.

Bugs are not inherently a reason to rip on a game. They can be a reason to avoid the game until it patches, like I’d currently suggest with Elden Ring, they can be a amusing nuisance like with Skyrim. But in the case Satisfactory multiplayer, they are a massive pain in the ass that actively interferes with the games gameplay loops and feel, and many of these issues have remained unfixed for years at this point. One friend who I had played with was shocked at how little had changed since the last time he’d played the game, about 3 years ago.

Early Access isn’t an excuse to ignore multiplayer performance, and frankly, there’s zero evidence that server performance will ever be fixed. They’ve had 5 years to do it, and they haven’t. I don’t see why I should believe they’ll do it in the next 5.

TLDR/Wrap-up

As a single player game, it’s an incredibly satisfying engine building/factory construction game of optimization and improvement, with a vestigial combat system, and some unimplemented features. As a multiplayer game, it’s all that, but with some exceedingly aggravating bugs that offset much of the games polish and design, in exchange for being able to untouched wilderness into a something resembling if MC Escher was tapped to design an Amazon warehouse with your friends, and the fun you’ll have is directly proportional to how long you can all go as a group before one of you snaps and quits to go back to a game that doesn’t wipe your inventory every time you try to log in. If this interests you, it’s out for PC on both Steam and the Epic Store at $30 a pop.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is fun, but I wish I could play the challenging parts without beating the game first.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is fine. But even though I just finished the game, I don’t really have any strong feelings about it. I think if you’re looking for a fairly relaxing 3D platformer, or are newer to video games, Kirby would probably hit the spot. That said, if you don’t play Kirby and the Forgotten Land, I couldn’t really make a strong argument that you’d be missing out on much.

Kirby games are generally fairly easy*. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Kirby is Nintendo’s entry level franchise. Making a game that everyone can beat, but still feels fun to play for both folks who might be picking up a controller for the first time as well as jaded freaks like myself is a tough balancing act. If you want more insight into that sorta thing, I suggest you check out this article from the Washington Post, with the creators. Even how the game handles detection isn’t straight forward, and is built in such a way that if an attack looks like it should connect, it connects! Which is brilliant, and clever, but still easy.

*Many Kirby games have post-game content in the form of boss rushes/time attacks/etc. These are NOT easy.

This writeup is about Kirby and the Forgotten Land though. So let’s get the bit of this article were I describe game mechanics verbatim over with, shall we?

In Kirby and the Forgotten Land, you play as Kirby. Like most Kirby games, the primary mechanic is being able to swallow up enemies, and copy their abilities. Unlike most Kirby games, the game is the first true 3D entry in the series. You don’t quite have the ability to jump/float infinitely, as it would break most of these 3D maps. Compared to something like Amazing Mirror, the game is incredibly linear, taking place over a series of levels played in order.

Each level has 5 mini-objectives, and two main objectives that are always the same. Objective one is to complete the level, and objective two is to find hidden captured waddle-dees. Usually the waddle-dees are in some sort of hidden area off the main path, or in something that needs to be destroyed. Objectives 3-5 are usually to complete some sort of additional task, and while these start out as hidden, each time you complete a level, you’re given a hint about what these extra goals are.

By the time I completed most levels, I had found 8-9 of the 11 waddle-dees. Beat enough levels, and you’ll reach the boss. Actually unlocking the boss does require that you freed enough of the waddle-dees from earlier, but I never actually had to go back to replay a level. I always had enough waddle-dees anyway. Beat the boss level, you unlock the next world.

Let’s talk about the bosses. They’re solid. Like most Kirby games, there are mini-bosses, which are fairly easy, and main bosses, which are the only places in the game I died. They’re fun spectacles and are somewhat challenging.

Outside the main game levels and the bosses, there are a few more activities. There’s a home town area that gives access to several mini-games, which I never played. There are also side areas called treasure roads that serve as time-trials/skill checks to get currencies to upgrade your abilities. I played like two of these, and then decided I didn’t care.

Complaining about Kirby being a generic video game is like complaining about Lord of the Rings being generic fantasy. Kirby is meant to be an easily played and approachable game, with a certain level of challenge and depth offered in the post game for more skilled players. As I mentioned in the intro, it’s not like it’s easy to make a game anyone can beat and feel good about it.

But with that said, I also don’t have strong feelings about it. Kirby and the Forgotten Land doesn’t offer anything I haven’t seen before, or seen at a similar level of polish. It’s a new Kirby game, with all that the series entails, including bright and colorful visuals, a story that takes a surprisingly dark turn in the last 90% of the game, and a final boss that looks like it belongs in a JRPG.

If you’re newer to gaming I think it’s a really solid place to start. Not because it is easy, but because it’s well designed. It’s good training ground for a lot of the habits and ideas that could serve well playing other games. Kirby and the Forgotten Land is $60 for Nintendo Switch. It’s a fine 3D platformer, with a fair amount of content and side objectives, but it doesn’t redefine Kirby games, and outside of the boss levels, there wasn’t anything super memorable about it. I don’t dislike it by any means, but I don’t feel passionately about it.

Post-Script: So after finishing the game, and dying a bunch in Elden Ring, I went back and decided to play the post game. It’s much harder and could best be described as a remix of the base game. It takes sections from each world, compresses them into a single level with juiced up boss fight at the end. Then it adds extra enemies to each section. It’s a lot more fun and interesting, because it isn’t as easy. I appreciate that it’s there, but I wish there was just an option to start with this version of the game.

TLDR: There’s a harder game mode, but you have to beat the game to unlock it.

Mad Rat Dead

Good, and supremely fucking weird. And the music BANGS.

Mad Rat Dead is a rhythm game that eschews quite a few of the genre conventions. I’m not a big rhythm game person, but I like it, and had a good time with it. It’s also incredibly fucking weird, like, weird even by my expectations of games from Nippon Ichi Software. If the name rings a bell, good! If it doesn’t, they’re the publishers of Disgaea and a bunch of other smaller stuff.

I can’t find a good splash screen image, so you get this instead.

The plot of Mad Rat Dead is… Hmm. Look, all you really need to know at the start is that you’ve been brought back to life by the Rat God to relive your last day prior to death, and fulfill your wish, which in your case is to kill the human who kept you in a cage all your life. There is more to it than that, but I will say that the game concludes fairly gracefully and satisfyingly. Anything else risks the dreaded spoilers. Onto the gameplay!

There are two types of levels in Mad Rat Dead: standard levels, and boss levels. Both have the same general rules. There is no life or health system. Instead, get hit, you die. Fall into a pit? You die. Touch spikes? You die. When you die, you get the ability to roll back time in increments of about a half a second, and then continue from that point. The main pressure comes from the beat timer. With each beat, it counts down, and if it gets to zero, you fail the level and have to start over. Rolling the timer back doesn’t roll back the beat timer, so the real loss from being killed is losing time.

Note: The game does have a mode where the beat timer isn’t active, and you can take as much time as you want to clear a level. I didn’t play in that mode, because…. well honestly because I derive at least some sense of self worth from playing games on the harder difficulties.

It sure is.

The most unique thing about Mad Rat Dead is that it’s a combo of a platformer and a rhythm game. It doesn’t require you to make specific inputs, unlike most rhythm games. Instead, you have fairly standard platforming controls (jump, dash, charge, ground pound) and movement, but your button inputs have to be to the beat. If they aren’t, they fizzle and don’t do anything. It also eats the next incoming beat, so you can’t just mash your way victory.

I really enjoy this for the most part. It feels really good to string movements together, and build your own combos and patterns. There are some points where the game does one of two things that make pulling a movement off a bit frustrating.

The first one is that it deliberately switches up the beat, slowing it down or speeding it up at certain portions on some levels. While this is obviously intentional, it often threw me off my game. As a general rule of thumb, I enjoyed the levels that were primarily either stationary or had many moving enemies, much more than I enjoyed the levels with either moving platforms or semi-tangible cheese platforms.

The second thing that messes with the “make your own beat” vibe is that the game has sections that feel like they really only have one solution in terms of inputs, and so if you mess up or die, you have to roll back the whole section, and restart. These felt quite jarring compared to the rest of the levels. Even the boss fights allow a fairly large amount of freedom, and having that taken away just felt bad.

Death incoming in 3, 2, 1…

The game’s not super long, but it’s fairly well polished. If you do choose to play Mad Rat Dead, there’s one movement mechanic that isn’t super well explained: the lock-on dash. On many of the levels, you’ll find enemies that can be used as bounce pads/chain jump location. In order to actually do this though, there’s two conditions that have to be met.

The first is that you have to be close enough to the enemy, but the second is that you also need to have not used one of your two double jumps, and your jumps only refresh when you hit an enemy, or touch the ground. The game never explicitly says this, so there was a large portion of time where I couldn’t figure out if I wasn’t close enough an enemy for the lock on reticle to appear, or if I’d just jumped twice.

I think I’d have raged a lot less if the game had ever explained how this works. That or I just didn’t read the prompts in the tutorial level.

So much good music.

As this is a rhythm game, it has music. Let’s talk about that music.

The music is fantastic and is actually the reason I even picked the game up. After listening to the soundtrack 7-8 times on YouTube, I realized I should probably play the actual game, and I’m writing this as I listen to it again. Since I’m a game person and not really a music person, I can’t tell you what genre it is, but I think it probably counts as club/EDM? If you’re into Japanese music or vocaloid, you’ll probably recognize a few of the names including DYES IWASAKI and Camellia.

I enjoyed Mad Rat Dead. It’s a unique rhythm game with solid gameplay, incredibly weird story, acid trip art, and incredibly good music. If that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, I hope you own either a Switch or PS4, because those are the only two consoles you can play it on. If you’re still on the fence, it also has a demo on Switch, which I’m gonna link here, and a demo on PS4, which you can grab here.

Ed Note: Game screenshots are taken from the Mad Rat Dead NIS page.