Not too long ago, I got invited to the Lab Rat playtest – and frankly, I love it. This is a 3D Sci-Fi Puzzle game by Chump Squad that is atmospherically very much in the vein of Portal, I’d say. You’re not alone in this as you’re paired with S.A.R.A., a metrics-obsessed AI that monitors, profiles, and entertains you throughout your journey through the different chambers. Over time, you answer questions so that S.A.R.A. can learn from you about humanity and… it’s hilarious how wrong her interpretation is.
While Lab Rat presents itself as an algorithmically-generated game programmed to satisfy humans, it (sadly?) very much is made by humans. One of those is Gwen Frey who was a senior technical animator on Bioshock Infinite, cofounded The Molasses Flood & (hence also) developed The Flame In The Flood (link to my review), and who may be known for her other solo puzzle game, Kine. The other developer of Lab Rat is Lucas Le Slo who’s renowned for his experimental in-browser puzzel games on itch.io.
The puzzles consist of you moving a cube onto buttons in a grid-based chamber. To do so, you’ll need to watch out for guns, lasers, and more importantly, your own movement as it’s important for you to actually match the charges of the cube and your own so that you can move it. The cube has four sides that can be touched by you, meaning that there are four slots for charges. When you get hit by a laser gun, you don’t die… you just get charged up with that laser’s energy. When you and the cube side you’re grabbing are charged in the same way, you can grab it as per normal. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting zapped.
I found this directional sort of puzzle system quite interesting and satisfying over my short playtime. The game continues to throw in a lot more mechanics than that but I don’t want to spoil too much – but trust me when I say: It was mind-wobbling. I loved it. To bits! The chambers themselves look easy at first but then you notice that you can’t do certain things in the way you wanted to, so you think again… and you stare at the screen for a while and try out something else. Once you tried that, you’ll notice you’re stuck somewhere else and you’ll just reset the last few steps and try it again, which was very satisfying and fun for me personally.
I loved Portal and Portal 2. I loved Lightmatter. It’s not too much of a stretch that I’m going to love this. The atmosphere overall was rather light-hearted and amazing, in my opinion. I enjoyed the little stings at the usual tropes and the little jokes and references that were present. Sure, it’s still relatively early in development and there may be bugs at times but I really enjoyed this early beta and how it demo’s the game and I’m looking forward to the full release. You may sign up for the game’s closed beta, too, if you want to over here at labrat.study! You may also want to wishlist Lab Rat on Steam! It’s a lovely title and I’m looking forward to the full release!