Lab Rabbit

You are a worthless rabbit. However you have the privilege of helping further science. What lies before you are a series of experiments. They will test you speed, your agility and the effects of high powered lasers on rabbits. Why you may ask? SCIENCE!

Lab Rabbit feels like an experiment gone wrong, a merger of the mostly excellent Urban Space Squirrels and the mostly uninteresting Bigger And/Or Better, a combination which would promise simple, Flash-derived visual elements married to a slightly clever but never realized theme. Lab Rabbit takes players on a journey through a series of platforming trials, guiding the rabbit through a gauntlet of spikes and other hazards to the carrot at the end. Unfortunately, the execution isn't nearly as good as the idea, likely to leave most players abandoning the carrot offered and applying their MS points elsewhere.

There are times where stark coloring and/or simplistic graphics can work well to provide a visually interesting environment for gameplay to take place (ie., Canabalt, Limbo). Other times, there are games such as Lab Rabbit, a mostly three colored affair of simplistic shapes and jilted animation, stiff and devoid of style. The rabbit silhouette looks nice until in motion, at which point it looks very much like the tank it feels like when playing, shifting around unnaturally and making generally odd movements. The running cycle looks decent but the herky jerky animation doesn't provide reliable feedback to help players accurately gauge how the rabbit will react when landing, whether or not it's going to stop of slide off the edge and into some waiting hazard. The ragdoll death animation looks okay at first until it reacts the same way no matter the cause of death or impact. To be fair, there are other means of dying in the game than just spikes, but watching the rabbit slide land atop some horizontally facing spikes and watching it slide over the group, leaving a red trail as it crumples below feels wrong for a game with a scientific theme. Sometimes the rabbit will trip over the edge and collapse, making it look impossibly fragile and awkward at times. The rabbit can go full bore into the side of a wall without injury, but I've seen the rabbit make a corpse after landing on the ground without any interference. The lack of coloring and style already give Lab Rabbit the look of a poor Flash title, but it's truly the wonky physics engine and odd ragdoll animations which spotlight how shoddy the graphics can be.

The bland and uninspired graphics would be tolerable if the game played well, but that's sadly not the case as this rabbit is a brittle little tank, controlled via mostly unintuitive controls and making the whole experience tedious and annoying. The rabbit will automatically do a short leap will ran off the edge of a platform, which messes with the timing of doing long and high leaps where the player needs more distance to cross some obstacle. The rabbit requires a running start before performing a greater jump, holding left or right for a long leap in that direction or holding up for a higher leap. Dropping the rabbit down from a platform requires walking to the edge and holding down for an aborted short jump, else the rabbit will likely impale itself against as it auto-leaps into something deadly.  The stiff controls make nature's agile sex machine a chore to control, and though the theme and level design are decent enough to carry a game, the counter-intuitive control scheme pretty much ruins this one. It's not that Lab Rabbit is an unplayable mess exactly, but the gameplay is so cumbersome that there is little pleasure in tolerating the poor controls to make it through the obstacles. The game is just poorly designed all around, and forcing players to press the X-button while over the carrot instead of having the game take care of that obvious goal seems indicative to me about how poorly thought the design elements are and how they negatively impact what could have been at least a decent game. Then again, given the poor graphics and barren landscapes, it would appear that the developer doesn't hold much interest in creating a good product and living up to the potential the excellent concept holds.

Platform games are numerous among indie games because they are relatively easy to make, but the all important, can't miss element of the genre is that they have to play well. If the game is playable, then people will find it easier to overlook poor graphics, level design, and whatnot as long as they're having fun. Unfortunately, the demo for Lab Rabbit was enough for me to see that the game is too burdened by poor controls to be fun, and I am no longer so starved for platformers to tolerate it here as I once did for A Fading Melody, another simplistic looking platformer whose theme rises far above its weak reality.

★★☆☆☆
November 6, 2010
October 17, 2010 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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