New York Rat Simulator is still in Early Access, so you’d be forgiven if you booted up the game, played for a few minutes, and wondered aloud “is this it?” There’s not much to do except run around the equivalent of one square city mile and collect floating slices of pizza – except you’re a rat, of course.
And while the small team at Firebug Games is hoping to launch a full version of New York Rat Simulator with a larger map, more collectibles, and an eldritch Rat King overlord, its current state is less of a fleshed-out game and more of an experience. That experience is what you make of it, and quite frankly, I found it hilarious.
Year of the rat
New York Rat Simulator has zero frills or fluff – at its core, it’s a simplistic, unpolished romp through a very small section of New York City. If I were to tell you that there are platforming elements, I’d be exaggerating, as I couldn’t find any during my playthrough (although the gifs on New York Rat Simulator’s Steam page (opens in new tab) show some platforming on what appears to be an older version of the game). You are a rat, and a rat’s life is very simple.
New York Rat Simulator starts off with a rat standing on the streets of New York City, as snow gently falls around her. You are that rat, and you can manoeuvre her along the streets using your WASD keys and mouse, and do a funny pangolin-style jump where she curls up in a little ball and launches into the air with your space bar.
I start giggling as soon as I make the rather lifelike-looking rat move a few steps forward, but am snapped out of my Rodentia stupor by the aggressive honking of a car horn. Ah, New York City, baby. Floating slices of pizza scattered across the city streets beckon, and after I collect over a dozen of them I unlock an ability called Bigify, where my rat grows in size and speed with each bite.
Before long, I am a human child-sized rat, bowling over people with reckless abandon. After a few minutes, I’m the size of a moped and can tip over cars. The ragdoll physics lets me push bodies into the street, so naturally, I stage a very twisted murder scene with bodies lying in the intersection and cars tipped on their sides. Then I’m hit by an oncoming car, and the words “hey, I’m walking here” appear on the screen as my limp rat body glitches into the pavement.
Fade to black. This is the life of the rat.
The absurdity of rat
New York Rat Simulator’s PS2-era graphics and hyper-simplistic gameplay harken back to a bygone gaming era, one where there were games exactly like this sitting on Blockbuster’s shelves. This game isn’t pretentious or high-brow – this is camp.
And it captures a special brand of ridiculousness that New Yorkers are especially well-equipped to understand. I’ve lived in Brooklyn for nearly seven years, and the following rat-related things have happened to me:
- A rat ran across my foot while I was wearing sandals and I felt its little feet on my feet.
- I walked past a sealed garbage bag lying on the sidewalk that began to crinkle and undulate with the bodes of several rats that had chewed a hole in it to get to its goodies… I tripped and fell running away from it.
- I watched a rat run through the dog park and wreak havoc.
- I cried at a rat carcass (this happens frequently).
And while I have never seen the elusive Pizza Rat (opens in new tab), any self-respecting New Yorker will admit they have a mix of fear and respect for the rodent population of our city. These adorable pests are hearty, brave, and brilliant, and a simulator that’s just about being a rat, eating pizza, and causing chaos is a game that truly understands the power of the rat.
New York Rat Simulator isn’t trying to be anything groundbreaking, but it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour or so. And from the Steam reviews, the absurdity of it all is clearly appreciated by its player base: “This game is a glorious trainwreck. I might be biased seeing how, well, RAT, but I think the dev has their heart in the right place.” One player writes, “I’m the giant rat that makes all of the rules,” while another is much more straightforward: “am rat :).” At the end of the day, we could all learn a little something from our rodent friends, right?
I look forward to more updates, and the hope that I will finally be able to “summon the dark eldritch being of New York” which I always thought was Rudy Giuliani.
New York Rat Simulator is available on PC via Steam. It’s currently in Early Access and costs $2.99 / £2.09.