When thinking about a game mascot, a rat isn’t usually the first thing you would go for. Synonymous with disease, the furry little blighter’s are more ‘nay’ than ‘yay’. Not Diego though, the protagonist behind the PSN Move enabled platform puzzle game ‘Funky Lab Rat’.
Having broken free from his cell, Diego’s goal is to escape the lab that imprisoned him and gain his freedom. This is the lab from hell though, and rather than nerdy scientists and sterile white corridors, there are devilish puzzles and ‘insta-death’ scenery. Sounds tough, but Diego is no ordinary rat as he has the ability to freeze and unfreeze time, rewind actions, and skip forward levels altogether should they become too tough.
There are three main control methods for Funky Lab Rat. You can either use a Move controller and Navigation controller, or a Move controller and DualShock 3, or just a DualShock 3 (although I wouldn’t recommend it). I focused on using the Move and Navigation controller. The analogue stick controls movement, the Move button is used to jump, the trigger button is used to grab objects and the various face buttons are mapped to Diego’s time powers. The Move controller itself is used as a torch, and you direct the beam of light to clear away cloud clusters which are covering collectables.
You start off the game in a hub, with ten worlds on display. Each world contains several levels with puzzles to solve, and capsules to collect. Capsules are like currency, and you can only progress to different worlds after you have collected the required amount. They are also used to rate your progress, so collecting them all in a level will see you awarded with a gold medal, but if you miss one you will get a silver, and so on. This is maddeningly addictive.
Funky Lab Rats’ puzzles are physics based and involve object and time manipulation, which certainly adds an interesting twist (Move pun intended) to what could have been a rather mundane affair. You have a finite amount of times you can freeze/unfreeze the levels, and it’s up to you to work out the best path to the goal, whilst collecting as many capsules as you can. A good example of this would be one of the puzzles a third of the way through the game. The exit is at the top right of the screen, far too high to reach; there are a number of blocks littered about, and a moving platform at the bottom of the screen.
Your first instinct might be to freeze the level, manipulate and stack the blocks on top of the platform and then jump to the goal – but that’s where the physics come into play. By stacking the blocks high they become unbalanced, so when you unfreeze the level and the platform starts moving again everything falls done. So you go back and start again, and this time use one of the blocks to jam the platform and stop it moving, thus allowing you to stack the rest high. It’s oddly reminiscent of the PSN Move game ‘Tumble’, the way you have to stack things correctly lest they fall down on you. Add in multi-tiered levels, additional objects such as trampolines, parts of the screen that can kill you, and a strict limit on your time powers and things get difficult rather quickly.
A useful rewind feature is on hand to turn back the clock when you make a mistake, and return you to the moment before you made it. This is great because make them you will, although sometimes they won’t entirely be your fault. There seemed to be some terrible button lag with the code I played, with presses of the jump button occasionally not registering, or registering a second late as I plunged to my death. This was particularly jarring having just come off the back of playing Donkey Kong which is as smooth as silk. It doesn’t ruin the game, but it does produce moments where you will grit your teeth, roll your eyes, and start again. If things get too tough you can press the triangle button to skip the level completely, although if you do this too many times you will find yourself desperately short of capsules and unable to progress.
The game is also buttock-clenchingly tough in places. It starts off as a total breeze and you ace worlds one and two, before running into a brick wall of bronze medals (or no medals at all). A walk in the part this isn’t, and if you like a challenge that requires brains as well as deft hands, then this should fit the bill nicely. What I will say though is that the game shouldn’t be played for long sittings, as there isn’t much variety in terms of goals.
- Strong puzzles
- A good sized challenge
- Looks basic, but nice
- Interesting time powers
- Occasional button lag
- Platforming isn’t very satisfying
- Can only really be played in short bursts
Funky Lab Rat is a pleasant surprise. Whilst the controls and platforming can be a bit off sometimes, the strong puzzle elements means that you will quickly forgive this and return frequently to blast through a level or two. At a shade over £5 it offers fantastic value for money – so dust off the Move controller and get stuck in.