You suddenly find yourself in control of a lab rat desperately trying to escape the labs experimenting on him, a place which — judging from how easily you can shove entire bookcases around — must be using you and your friends to test some new strength serum. Clockwork Moon Limited’s newly debuted Scatty Rat (out now, $0.99), is a combination maze-platforming experience — featuring randomly generated levels — which seeks to give players endless maze-faring action that can be eternally enjoyed however they prefer. One might — with your super strength, the ability to leap long distances, instantly burrow through solid walls, and even hurl your friends like projectiles — think that escape would be easy, but you’ll have to face: turrets, cats, robo-mice, dodgy controls, and even apathy.
Although simply moving your rat around is easy enough, with players sliding their finger across the screen’s left hand side in order to command their character to follow suit, it’s the jumping commands where Scatty Rat could definitely use some improved precision. For jumping you simply need to swipe directly upwards — or at an upwards angle — in order for your rat to either rocket straight upwards, or jump forward in an arc moving in the same direction as your swipe. In theory your jumps should move at exactly the same angle as your swipe — assuming Scatty Rat acknowledges you were jumping at all — but this is generally difficult to do reliably, which makes it rather hard to jump out of pits.
In order to compensate for your less than optimal leaping abilities — even if you can jump nearly a mile — your rat can also burrow through the wall at any given moment, assuming a stud isn’t blocking him, simply by tapping and releasing the screen’s right hand side. Once on the wall’s backside — where you may freely scurry about in 360 degrees — you can simply run away from any holes you might have been stuck in, assuming none of the maze-like studs should fully block your way. You can furthermore return from the wall’s backside — again, only if nothing on the other side is blocking your way — by doing the exact same action as before, after which gravity will take hold of your avatar once more.
While it’s easiest to transition from the wall’s two sides whenever you’re standing stationary, sometimes — either to evade an obstacle blocking your path, or to reach a secluded treasure cache — you’ll want to burrow through the wall while actively jumping. This really doesn’t work very well, either the game will flat out fail to acknowledge your burrow attempt — attempt it later than you intended (causing your effort to be blocked by the scenery) — or only pretend to succeed (with it promptly burrowing your right back). While this trick is usually optional — at least so long as your don’t much care for your friends — there are some levels where this is all but mandatory (usually the ones involving metallic back-wall studs), and it’s herein where you’ll rue the imprecise jumping inputs.
Finally — should you have any liberated hostages following you — you can start the rat’s tail rotating back and forth by holding down on the screen for a bit, after which releasing the screen will cause one of his buddies to be hurled forward in the direction pointed at. Although your friends all willingly begin following you around after being touched — presumably in the hopes that you’ll lead them to the exit — I have to wonder if the protagonist isn’t really the bad guy, especially because of what happens after this part. Upon being launched your friend will careen wildly about — shattering bits of stud wall if you’re on the backside, but only if its not constructed of metal — as well obliterating any enemies they bounce off of, and then eventually explode into a confectionery shower!
While I don’t claim to be an expert on the rules of proper heroic etiquette, sacrificing your friends to eliminate your foes — or perhaps just open up the way to a treasure cache — definitely does not seem like an appropriate course of action to be taking. The fact that you may afterwards rush forward to snatch up all of their dropped cake — increasing your score in the process — only further makes the scenario feel than particularly heroic. However, that may be the actual reasoning behind why your rat’s giant tail — which always seem to be in perpetual motion, at least when on the wall’s front side — tends to appear as though it should belong to a nefarious demon of some sort.
That said, feel free to march boldly forward — carelessly exploiting your mousey comrades as you like — since you won’t ever be penalized in the slightest for arriving at the exit with zero surviving friends in tow, and sometimes you won’t even get the chance. Despite the fact I was actually feeling heroic — which is sort of pointless here — there were quite a few times where the level generator caused the friendly rats to die seconds after the stage began, due to spawning them directly on top of all-too-eager unfriendly forces. It was definitely a colossal shame whenever this transpired, since trying to successfully reach a level with all of the mice in tow — despite the randomly generated level attempting to force you to kill them — was the single best method for challenging yourself here.
Which I guess leads me to my least enjoyed part of Scatty Rat: the randomized levels; which will produce stages that can be won in under five seconds one moment, and then — thanks to the burrow-jump issues — make levels that are super frustrating the very next. These random levels are probably the true reason why Scatty Rat refuses to ever require players to save all of their allies, or even grab up all the treasures, since that would only serve to empower the contrary level generator to design actually impossible stages. Furthermore, the fact that you’re given endless levels — as well as endless lives — means you could just as easily raise your score by playing the next level (rather than fighting to achieve something that the level generator has decided to make stupidly convoluted).
That said — despite the many things I have said so far — I believe there is still hope for this game, as the current framework laid forth for Scatty Rat definitely seems to have massive potential. For instance, the jump-burrow issue could easily be resolved by changing the mechanic to shift the player slightly over whenever a legitimate burrow location happened to exist mere pixels away. Additionally, conditions could be added to the level generator to ensure that enemies aren’t ever spawned within immediate attacking distance of your little friends (since rescuing them is the closet thing Scatty Rat has to a purpose).
Clockwork Moon’s Scatty Rat is a platforming game with a unique twist, your rat can — at any given moment — tunnel behind the laboratory’s wall in order to maneuver around any obstacles he can’t successfully jump past. Although a unique idea — especially with the back area playing quite differently — the app is unfortunately plagued with control issues, random level-gen weirdness, and a general lack of goals. That said — as Scatty Rat’s various issues could still easily be patched up — this one is definitely worth keeping an eye on.