On Steam, Bad Rats is infamous. It’s a janky physics puzzle game that people gift to their enemies. Earning all of its achievements is considered a masochistic badge of honour. It’s the butt of joke after joke. And yet, seven years after the release of the original, it just got a sequel.
I’ve always wondered, though: is the game’s developer, Invent4 Entertainment, in on the joke? Despite a slight language barrier, Invent4's Augusto Bulow told me, essentially, yes.
“I’m completely OK with the game situation,” he said via email. “I feel happy with all the people that loves (and hates) Bad Rats series.”
“The original Bad Rats was a game planned to be funny,” he added. “If people are laughing while playing the game, that’s fine. The game reached its objectives.”
Then he said a bunch of stuff about his aunt and dinosaurs and, well, I’ll just let you read it.
“My aunt after playing asked me, ‘Why such violence? Why kill cats?’” he said. “And the answer is simple: cause they are rats. As the human being exterminated the dinosaurs, because they were putting our lives in risk, the rats, in this hypothetical parallel universe are exterminating their predators as well.”
It’s widely believed that dinosaurs and humans did not inhabit Earth at the same time, nor did they engage in a war for the planet’s future. But maybe Bulow was joking? I am pretty sure he was joking.
Over the years, the original Bad Rats ascended to the lofty heights of meme-hood. While Bad Rats has been knit into a faintly vomit-scented portion of Steam’s shag carpet fibre since 2009, Bulow says it actually only really took off a few years ago.
“I like all memes and all comments,” he said. “Actually I think it took [a long time] for the game to be perceived. Seven years ago, when it was released, I was expecting more [of a reaction]. It was one of the most violent and offensive video games released [in the] past decade. And it’s one of the funniest games too. It’s a paradox, and with this paradox the Bad Rats game grown up.”
“But actually, the game started to be really discovered when some big YouTubers published some infamous reviews about the game a few years ago,” he explained. “They said bad things about the game, but 5% of their audience perceived it different, bought Bad Rats, and entered in love with the game.”
One of my favourite things about the original Bad Rats’ cult of personality is the way it emerged from a different era of Steam. It’s not actually that terrible of a game (which is not to say it’s good, either...), but it somehow managed to get precious virtual shelf space back when Valve heavily curated Steam’s selection. It was this strange, curious little thing that felt like it escaped from the late-’90s in gameplay style and humorous sensibility. It was a rickety, ragged, raw outlier.
These days, Steam is different. It’s a machine, largely automated but running on user-driven systems. Thanks to programs like Greenlight and Early Access, less-than-stellar games abound, as do ones that are weird, retro, and poorly translated. Bad Rats doesn’t really have a claim to fame these days beyond, well, being Bad Rats.
Bulow isn’t sure the sequel will be capable of similar infamy, but he’s not too worried. Whatever happens, happens, basically.
“Bad Rats [came before] the Greenlight era,” he explained. “We never asked a community to vote in our game, we never paid for votes or whatsoever (what some will say, can be common nowadays). We entered by the front door. We submitted our game, and got Bad Rats approved by the Steam staff.”
He added that, to his knowledge, the Valve employee who approved Bad Rats has not been fired.
“Perhaps Bad Rats is some kind of miracle,” he said in response to a question about the current era of Steam. “How does such a low budget game sometimes have more active players than other big productions? This kind of questions I leave to you journalists to answer. The fact is, a game can’t just sustain good sales seven years after its release. Or the people are crazy, or the game is good. Anyone can have it own judgement, and we respect all opinions here.”