Cast your mind back to EGX Rezzed and you may remember us mentioning a title we discovered while we were there called Steel Rats. After watching some gamers try out the demo, the mechanics and art style immediately drew us in and made us want to give it a go. We gave our initial thoughts, all of which were positive of course, and were looking forward to the release of the game when we would get more time with it! Well here we are! Steel Rats is now available on PS4 and PC, ready for you to mount your wheel’d steed and fight off the robot invasion.
Steel Rats is probably best described as a 2.5D action-arcade game with highly stylised visuals, a good soundtrack and interesting adventure as you ride around on your motorbike fighting robots made of junk with your four characters. While you take the side scrolling style viewpoint during gameplay, it offers a fun and sometimes technically challenging playing mechanic as you negotiate driving from an unothodox angle while battling the badguys and trying to defend the city from the Junkbots that have descended upon you.
The game is set out in levels which move through different districts in the city, each becoming more challenging than the last as you discover more upgrades and get the gang back together after initially starting with just one rider. Each level has some additional objectives which get you more junk to upgrade your skills and your bikes which you can also acquire by destroying robots or breakable objects throughout the levels. I tended to find that I would have a fair amount of junk to spend and then suddenly have none as I upgraded all four characters at once but you can replay levels if needed to try and complete the objectives or demolish that junk goldmine you zoomed passed on your first playthrough. I liked that the game was split into these levels as it allowed you to pick up from where you left off without any issues and it also breaks up the game nicely as you move through the narrative. Throughout the levels you will be introduced to many a Junkbot which you will have to destroy before they can damage your rider too much… if a rider goes down, another will rise (as long as you have unlocked them of course) but it’s best to avoid damage where possible.
Speaking of destroying, the way you do this is by using your cool motorbike as a weapon and also using some of your special skills, when required, to deal some major damage. There is something theraputic about zooming through a level running through the Junkbots with your front wheel, maybe firing off your gun at another before spinning around to fire a bot bullet back at them. Your riders are skilled and carry out some pretty death-defying stunts as they wheelie, jump, dash, flip and use their charged up wheel to grip onto pipes that can take them on a crazy vertical (or upside down) ride! It’s madness but it’s also fun to do. After a few levels, you’ll be able to repair your ride too so if you have a rider who is low on health, it’s worth pausing to swap and get them patched up. Initially the game introduces you to your bikes capabilities a couple of steps at a time to allow you to get use to the mechnics but once you’re settled in, it’ll be down to you to save the city with everything that you have so be sure to check your upgrades for each character. Once everyone is unlocked, there’s always a chance that you may have to swap between riders so it’s best to try and have as much unlocked for everyone as possible to make your journey smoother.
All of the characters have unique skills that will aid in combat, whether it’s a area of affect attack that takes out multiple enemies, a slam attack that resembles a hammer, a chain that hooks on to enemies or a cute little bot that follows them around firing at the other robots you come across. These get more powerful as the game goes on and once again, once you’ve mastered the controls, you’ll find these can get you out of a tight spot and save the day. You’ll need to keep an eye on your energy bar to make sure you are able to use them when needed though but you can build this back up quite quickly by killing Junkbots in your way. The characters themselves are fun, in the way that they have a sense of humour and have their own personailities which can make for some enjoyable back and forth as they talk to each other on coms. You can also chose to spend some hard earned junk on some outfits and paintjobs to make them your own and of course, make them look very cool!
As I said earlier, the levels increase in difficulty as you go along and do require you to utilise all of the skills and controls you learn as you play through. It’s a very reactionary game in the way that you have to be nimble and quick at times, especially in those levels where you are trying to get away from a large object that intends on crushing you and you can’t fight… let me tell you there are some intense moments during these sections… here’s looking at you Pier level! At times I found that I struggled to get to grips with some of the controls which resulted in me going back over a level just to practise again. I don’t feel this is much of an issue as practise makes perfect but once you get used to it, you’ll be a pro. Turning is a skill to master first off as this will be the move you probably use the most throughout the game but I would certainly recommend getting to grips with your charge, dash and skill attacks most of all as these will deal some damage and get you out of harms was quickly all being well. Overall, the controls are not hard to pick up but can be challenging to master on the move when bigger and harder enemies start to appear.
I love the art style and visual elements of the game. The mix of futuristic with some retro aspects works really well and the design is great. The story cinematics are in more of a graphic novel noir style but still fit with this futuristic look and feel offered throughout the game. The whole thing has this underlying industrial tone which works very well with the destructive nature of the mechanics and of course, make your character and their bike really stand out as they throw sparks against the metal-lic backdrop. The 2.5D style works well and is an interesting approach for such genre but Tate Multimedia have really made it work with that mix of Trials Fusion-esque physics (to a point) and evolving it into something else which is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s also worth noting the sound as well, with the 5, 6, 7, 8s featuring for the title song of the game which is another enjoyable aspect of the game and it almost greets you as you enter the menus before you plunge back into the high-octane vroom vroom, bang and crash found within each level. It’s just delightful.
Overall, Steel Rats is certainly an indie game to get in your collection and it is my hope that one day it will make the leap onto Nintendo Switch as that particular console would lend itself beautifully to this game. You could do a level at a time or spend a few hours getting stuck in but either way you’ll have a fun experience with this challenging and charming title. Steel Rats is available on PS4 and PC now with a standard version priced at £15.99 and a deluxe version priced at £18.99. Check out the gameplay trailer for a taster of what to expect!
We would like to express our thanks to Swipe Right for providing a review copy on PS4.