Free Game of the Day, 9/4/12 — Dishonored: Rat Assassin

Tue, Sep 4, 2012

Free-to-Play, iPad, iPhone, Mobile

Dishonored: Rat Assassin is not an artistically interesting game. It barely innovates, and it looks like a pile of old beef stew. It’s App Store shovelware at its finest.

That makes it even harder for me to admit that I like it. Quite a bit, in fact.

Before I get into the “why” behind Rat Assassin, I’ll focus on the “what” — or “what the hell,” as you may be wondering by now. Rat Assassin is essentially Fruit Ninja, minus the fruit, plus rats. (And minus the juicy pulp, plus blood and guts). An unseen figure tosses the dirty beasts onto the screen, and you mutilate them. Avoid the bombs, and that’s it. You can slow down time in a pinch, which actually makes the soaring rodents look a bit majestic as they twirl apart in gory chunks.

The meat of the game — the bloody, bloody meat — is a “challenge mode” that introduces rapid-fire, time-sensitive goals in specific contexts. It’s sort of like facing one complicated wave from Galaga over and over until you nail it without missing a shot. Except, you know, with rats and stuff.

It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprisingly fun. Raw entertainemnt value, though, is never quite enough to make Frisky Mongoose’s FGOTD.

Rat Assassin wouldn’t have distinguished itself from the daily deluge of stillborn software on the App Store if not for that first word in the title: Dishonored. From the first sentence of the game’s description, it’s clear that Rat Assassin is a shameless tie-in for Bethesda’s upcoming first-person action-adventure — there’s a even an enormous banner advertising the release date on the title screen. But the explicitness of the marketing ploy might, ironically, make it more acceptable. It’s an underutilized alternative to the constant badgering for microtransactions and in-game advertisements that most F2P games rely on, which only works because the game itself is an advertisement. When I can make that mental concession up front, it’s no problem. It helps that Dishonored looks like a game worth supporting.

I’m sure that plenty of console-focused developers don’t have the resources to crank out mobile tie-ins, especially with the pre-holiday crunch coming on. But many of them, I’m sure, could build favor and cater to their audience with irreverent, quirky little titles like Rat Assassin.

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