Radar Rat Race is a game I was first exposed to as a child. The premise seems pretty simple: guide your rat around the maze to get every piece of cheese within a time limit, avoiding hazards along the way. It is surprisingly addictive, though.

You start out in the first maze with ten randomly placed pieces of cheese to obtain. The more pieces of cheese you can get without being captured, the more points they are worth. Three "enemy" rats are in constant pursuit of your rat; in addition, several stationary cats are strewn about the maze. Collide with any of these, and you lose a life. The enemy rats have a deceptively sophisticated AI; though they can be outsmarted, they do an effective job of converging on your position.

At the side of the screen is a small radar display (hence the name) with dots on it that indicate your location on the maze, the locations of the cheese, and the locations of the enemy rats. The locations of the maze walls do not appear on this map, though, so memorization of the patterns is vital to your success.

You have one defensive weapon at your disposal; a white "star screen" which shoots out of your behind like a smoke trail (insert joke here). This causes the enemy rats to get tangled up briefly, giving you a chance to escape. However, using the star screen reduces the amount of time you have to complete the level, requiring some strategy on your part.

As you complete levels, you encounter new mazes, and the number of enemy rats increases. In addition, certain levels are "speed runs" which allow you to cruise around the maze at super speed without being pursued by rats. This game is from the era of games whose replay value consists mostly of trying to beat your high score, but since the cheeses are randomly placed each time, the repetitiveness is not on the same scale as, say, Pac-Man.

Everything about this game is simple. The control scheme consists of up, down, left, and right with a single button to deploy your star screen. The graphics and sounds, while unspectacular, are good for the era. There are some neat touches; when you collide with an enemy, the screen says "EEEK" and there is a squeaking sound effect. Also, the background music for the game is "Three Blind Mice", a clever choice.

If you've been reading this review and thinking it sounds a lot like Pac-Man, well, yes, there are a number of similarities, but it's by no means a clone. If you enjoy games of that type, you'll love Radar Rat Race.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 08/04/04

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