It only feels right to call the bikes in Steel Rats 'choppers', considering that their front wheels are also saw-blades, ideal for grinding through robots, letting players climb vertical walls and even adhere to ceilings. Tate Multimedia's offbeat vehicular platformer is nearly ready to roll out, and launches on November 7th.
I played a bit of Steel Rats earlier this year at Rezzed. While I was only just getting a handle on its controls by the end of my demo run, it felt good. It borrows some bits from the likes of Excite Bike and Trials, but assembles them into something fresh. Below, a developer diary with a bit of game footage - make sure you turn on subtitles if you don't speak Polish.
Set in a weird retro-futuristic 1940s, there's a robot uprising happening and the only dudes (and dudettes) bad enough to save America are the Steel Rats, a high-tech biker gang. Your gang double as extra lives and force you to adjust strategies after a loss, as each has their own stats and special abilities. While in the demo I found most success with the heavier, more directly offensive bikers, I saw a lot of potential in one fragile, agile character with a grappling hook capable of dragging large robots off their feet as you drive past. There's also guns, but they've limited ammo pickups.
Tate Multimedia have some past experience with physics-driven bike games (the so-so Urban Trials series), but they wanted to do something different with that skill-set with Steel Rats. The end result is a mission-based platformer with puzzles and combat, but also one where you'll want to be double back-flipping off every ramp because it's fun. Unlike most Trials-type games, Steel Rats allows you to switch lanes, giving it some extra depth (in the most literal Z-axis sense) to its combat, letting you spin around and drive circles around bigger robots, or just through smaller ones.
The levels are a bit more convoluted than a Trials game, too, with keys, doors, areas requiring backtracking and multiple objectives to complete. I'm interested to see how quickly I end up wrapping my head around its slightly offbeat controls and heavy bike handling, or whether I just end up crashing and burning. At least it's only a few weeks away now.