Imagine Sonic the Hedgehog and Mad Max had a baby. As creepy as that might sound, it would probably look and sound something like the retro-futuristic Steel Rats, a fast-paced action platformer with gruff bikers, steampunk robot enemies and a cool retro synth soundtrack. If you’re looking for a break from some of the heavier triple-A titles out this month, this indie title offers some mindless fun and is the perfect antidote to blockbuster fatigue, much like the B movies that inspired it.
The titular Steel Rats are a four-person ragtag biker gang that spend their time speeding around the rooftops, streets and sewers of a 1940s-inspired future fighting against junk that has come to life as murderous robots (Junkbots). Think Biker Mice from Mars.
As a player, you navigate levels using your souped-up motorcycle, which conveniently comes equipped with a saw attached to the front wheel. You know, for cutting through rubble, post-apocalyptic enemies and such. Using your trusted bike, you’re required to jump off of ramps, traverse platforms, and even ride upside-down. When you combine this with nostalgic charm, a rocking soundtrack and well-designed 2.5D levels with vibrant neon lights and smokey metro backdrops, it’s easy to get lost in the game’s atmospherics. Plus, the models, although tiny on screen, look good and are nicely detailed.
Steel Rats definitely gets an A+ for presentation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do so well in the game’s execution.
While all of the above sounds like great fun, and it mostly is, Steel Rats is a monster to control. In fact, you’ll spend a large portion of the game trying to tame your bike as it moves, tumbles, fumbles, floats and does strange acrobatics across the screen as if it was immune to gravity. I spent a good portion of the game riding past turns or continually having to reverse or turn around because I missed a road or a jump. It’s pretty unforgiving.
When you combine the clunky controls that require you to press too many buttons at once, the annoying camera positions and the game’s bizarre physics, you end up with gameplay that’s completely frustrating. Which is incredibly sad, considering how promising the idea and the setup actually is.
Apparently, each of the eventual four characters you unlock have different skills. Sadly, they mostly seemed the same to me. One has a repurposed Junkbot drone that follows close by and delivers bolts of electricity. Another shoots jets from her exhaust. It’s the arcade weapons we’ve become accustomed to in games like this. And, of course, they’re all upgradable, which is done by collecting the scraps of destroyed Junkbots. Junk is the currency.
As the game progressed, I became less and less concerned with the objectives and the storyline and just thundered along in the chopper cutting up everything in my way. Not even the six heavily narrated cutscenes, which show off some amazing visuals, could help get me back in or slow me down enough to consider the purpose behind it all. And maybe that’s the best way to play Steel Rats, without a care in the world. Maybe Tate Multimedia is more concerned with players having a fun time rather than a deeper, meaningful experience. And that’s okay.
Steel Rats is a fast-paced action platformer worth taking for a spin, at least once.
- Beautiful visuals
- Great atmosphere
- Weak story
- Awful controls
- Storyline 0%
- Gameplay 0%
- Graphics 0%
- Replay Value 0%
- Sound and Music 0%