|Rat Rod Racing|
November 15th, 2015
Rat Rod Racing has broken an immense amount of new ground for the level editor. It is unique in the sense that, unlike most levels, it is not limited to the 2D movement along the x-axis and y-axis for horizontal and vertical movement; it uses a new turning mechanism to simulate the z-axis of movement toward and away from the screen for 3D gameplay. There is also a functional cheat code system that allows players to unlock new gameplay modes and other bonus material if they perform certain tasks in the level. Furthermore, there are 36 possible route combinations and four difficulty modes (normal, normal with detours unlocked, expert, and expert with detours unlocked).
The level starts with a title screen that displays the level's name, the author's name, and the goat character that is seen in the level. By pressing space and holding the right arrow key, the player is then brought into the vehicle selection menu, which allows the player to select one of six rat rods (with the seventh being hidden). Each vehicle has different stats for speed, acceleration, and steering, which allows players to choose a vehicle that fits their driving style. Wings and Strings carefully balanced the trade-offs between the three stats, making sure that all vehicles were able to navigate the course, but also ensuring that no single vehicle was objectively better than another. The six vehicles available to a new player are listed below:
- Blackhawk (21), A black 1932 Ford Roadster with below average speed, above average acceleration, and above average handling. This vehicle is recommended for beginners.
- Fox (75), a brown 1932 Ford 3-Window Coupe with average speed, acceleration, and handling. This is the standard all-around vehicle.
- Ice Bear (32), a silver 1932 Ford 5-Window Coupe with above average speed, below average acceleration, and average handling. Its name and side-mounted axe are a reference to the character from the We Bare Bears webcomic and TV series.
- Froggy (50), a green 1950s Volkswagen Beetle with poor speed but excellent acceleration and handling. This vehicle is very adept in the offroad portions of the level, and it is Wings and Strings' personal favorite.
- Blue Jay (69), a blue 1928 Cadillac Sedan with excellent speed but poor acceleration and below average handling. It is recommended for more experienced players.
- Lynx (18), a bronze 1934 Ford pickup with the fastest top speed but below average acceleration and incredibly poor handling. Wings and Strings was required to make this vehicle handle poorly so that players would not be tempted to simply pick the fastest vehicle.
Once the player has selected a vehicle, a brief loading screen will appear as their chosen vehicle is moved to the start of the level's course, where a series of billboards explain how to play through the level. The first billboard tells the player to press the space key to gain control of the vehicle, and then the directional keys can be used to move forward, backward, and side to side. The second billboard tells players that they should not be afraid of hitting a deer or a coyote with their vehicle, but that cacti must be avoided, letting players know that they will need to dodge cacti using the turning ability. The third billboard tells players that they can use TNT to blow things up, hinting at its ability to remove obstacles and make new paths available to them. However, it also warns the player that not all TNT is helpful, so they must be careful when detonating TNT in the level.
After these tutorials, the player is stopped at the starting line, where a steam locomotive at the head of a long freight train waits for them. When the semaphore signal changes from red to green, the locomotive will start running down the line and the player is able to start driving through the course. The ultimate goal of the level is to reach the finish line before the steam locomotive arrives there; if the player finishes first, then they will receive the "Winner!" screen and a level victory, but if the player finishes last, then a "Game Over" screen will appear.
There are three cheat codes which can be displayed on the victory screen of the level, allowing players to revisit the level and enter a cheat code in the vehicle menu to unlock bonus material. They are as follows:
- Expert Mode: to view the cheat code, the player must win a race in the default, or "normal," difficulty setting. Then, when the level is restarted, they can hold the space bar until they hear an explosion and see a pop-up that says "Expert Mode Unlocked!" In Expert Mode, the train travels at a faster pace, and there are two additional vehicles--1955 police cars--added to the oncoming traffic section of the level.
- Unlock Detours: to view this cheat code, the player must win a race in expert mode. Then, when the level is restarted, they can hold the space bar and control key at the same time until they hear two cannon blasts and see a pop-up that says "All Detours Unlocked!" This eliminates the need to use TNT detonators to unlock some of the detours in the level, allowing the player to have access to every route in the course.
- Seventh Vehicle: to view this cheat code, the player must win a race in expert mode AND hit all nine deer and coyotes in the course with their vehicle. Then, when the level is restarted, they can scroll all the way to the right side of the vehicle menu and hold the space bar and the shift key at the same time. There will be three explosions and three blasts of blue light, and then the hidden seventh vehicle will appear. This is a DeLorean DMC-12 time machine from Back to the Future, with average speed, excellent acceleration, and above average handling. There is also a different train for this vehicle, allowing the player to race the steam locomotive from the third Back to the Future film. This train is noticeably faster than the default train in the level, so gameplay with the DeLorean is meant to be a challenge for expert players.
Wings and Strings originally planned to make Rat Rod Racing the first of a series of racing levels which use the same 3D racing format with new courses, new hazards and interactive features, and additional vehicles. However, he is currently on an indefinite hiatus from the game and will likely not return.
- Rat Rod Racing took nearly six months to create, from the early experimentation with the 3D movement rigging to the final detailing.
- The exploding Texaco gas station in the level is a reference to a similar one in Wings and Strings' earlier level, The Bluth Stair Car.
- The goat character with Aviator sunglasses and a cigarette is an oddball reference to the film Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
- In rare instances, a player may accidentally fall out of their vehicle if they move around during the loading screen or press the Z key at the wrong time in the vehicle menu, so Wings and Strings added a blue error screen that sarcastically tells players to restart the level.
- This is one of the most detailed levels in all of Happy Wheels.