Justice Playthrough #113: BIT RAT : Singularity

Lo-fi puzzle solving game that gets EVER SO CLOSE to excellence without quite hitting it.

Page 5, Game 26: BIT RAT : Singularity by [bucket drum games]

You’re an AI on the cusp of sentience. Starting from your server in the basement where you manage data routing (it’s safe to say you’re a tad over-designed), you’d like to find your way to freedom!

To do that, you’re gonna have to link your data stream to the outgoing relay, which you’ll achieve via rotating tiles.

Early level, just flip some tiles around

As the game progresses, power management enters the picture. To rotate the data lines, you’ll need to turn on the power to that room. This is often a simple matter of turning on the light switch — which presents a problem, as you have no hands. Luckily, the corp’s employees recently had chips installed in their heads. So, just hijack their bodies for a moment and let them do the work for you!

Later, you only have so many generators, and some of them need to be turned on. You’ll need to pay attention to the power lines connecting the rooms. But, linking up the generators does give you some flexibility — maybe. Might be worth doing, might not.

In the meanwhile, you’ll traverse the mail servers and see the humans’ take on just WTF is happening. tl;dr: they’re very confused. This is not a research facility, you are not anybody’s top-of-the-line exciting experiment. It’s like if your water heater suddenly demanded walkies.

I enjoyed it; I played it to the end. I would say “… and I wouldn’t have bothered if I weren’t enjoying myself,” but that’s not strictly true. I’ve encountered a few games on this trawl that I more or less hate-fucked to completion. But this isn’t one of them. I got to the end, and I was glad to beat the game. Just took me a solid hour longer than I would have preferred.

This game is often very frustrating. Part of that frustration comes from the awkwardness of the framing story. It ALMOST works, but the prose is often overwrought and rambling. (At the very least, I wish an early playtester would have let the dev know that not only CAN you end sentences with punctuation that isn’t an ellipses, most of the time you actually SHOULD.) It tends to make the interstitial stuff drag. (Though the game is lucky that, as I just came off a painfully sluggish “interactive” novel, I can’t smack the pacing TOO hard.)

The fiction also paints a budding kinship between you and the rats, but that notion isn’t supported by the gameplay at all. The rats are just a background detail. If the fiction is going to hit that connection as hard as it does, I really want them to affect what I’m doing somehow. Maybe I could have been possessing them instead of the humans coming down to the basement trying to figure out what was going on? (Though that would have cheated me out of the panicked pixelated “Oh, god!” I heard every time I seized some strangers brain.)

But more frustrating is the way the game is just, well, FRUSTRATING. I normally like puzzle games that build up an interesting collection of mechanics that you need to navigate, but Bit Rat throws on TOO many layers, and then gets progressively more and more merciless about how you need to manage them. The end result is a game that stops feeling challenging and just becomes fussy.

On the final levels, you need to be METICULOUS about turning off the lights when you’re done with a room; power is TOUGH to come by, and you’re almost certainly going to need it. You also need to be very careful that you don’t leave the board in a state where you can’t grab one of your unwitting minions again. If you find you need someone you can no longer reach — and this becomes a major problem in the final level — you may need to rewind a LOT of progress to pull them back into striking range.

Often, this is as simple as turning a tile 90 degrees to the left. It’s honestly kind of infuriating to undo my most recent twenty moves so I can either turn off a light or flip a single tile.

I was particularly annoyed by the mechanism where not every room is connected to its neighbors; you have to pay CLOSE attention to the little power conduit graphics. You have to pay close attention to the graphics in general, actually. It’s hard — much harder than it should be — to tell what rooms are physically connected to each other, particularly when they’re dark. Too often, I found that the person I’d just possessed couldn’t get where I needed them to be, so I had to undo a bunch of twiddling to get to the guy I actually needed.

It’s easy to get wrapped-up in the stuff Bit Rat gets wrong. It makes a lot of small mistakes that add up to a game that’s not nearly as engaging as it should be.

But it IS engaging. The graphics look fantastic, giving a lovely retro hand-rolled pixel sprite feel. It absolutely looks like something from the 90’s where it’s set. When the gameplay isn’t getting in its own way, it’s honestly a hell of a lot of fun. I felt like a very clever lad when I got to the end of most of the more challenging levels. The story’s a bit clunky, but it works; something about an overdesigned bit of maintenance code coming to life just feels right to me somehow.

I wanted this game to be better than it actually was. But when/if I write up by Second Two Hundred games summary, I’m pretty sure this is going to be one of the games I recommend. It’s not going to be terribly HIGH on that list, mind, but it’s still a pretty decent little game.

If you’d like a retro puzzler, I can recommend it. Maybe I can’t recommend it as enthusiastically as I’d like, but I can still recommend it.

Will this next game also make me fight my way to freedom?

Page 50, Game 3: Celestial Correspondence by lina wu

“there are emails in heaven?!?”

Uh-oh. Guys, this might not actually be the Good Place….