Now I was given this game some years ago as a bit of a joke (since I didn't have kids at the time), and I only have vague memories of how it worked, although I remember that it involved a VHS video cassette (which, amusingly, makes this an 'interactive' game according to the instructions!) and a somewhat annoying mouse character.
The slogan on the front of the Rap Rat box states: "For kids who just want to have fun!" Well that pretty much describes any kid. And the box artwork certainly looks fun — with little cartoon mice antics all over the place. My kids are cheering as I bring it out into the living room... OK then, let's dust if off and give it a go!
Having now played the game, I'd like to take issue with the slogan on the box. 'Fun' this game is not. And 'educational'? Well, if disappointment, conflict and frustration are character building experiences, then I guess you could say there is an educational element to this game.
The game play involves rolling a colour-coded die ("so any age can play" the instructions say) and moving pieces around a circular track of colour-coded spaces in the predictable way. I should say "almost predictable"', since in most games of this ilk there is some purpose to this progression. Here there is very little purpose, save perhaps to distract and confuse young players. (Extra confusion arises from the fact that the orange colour on the board is difficult to distinguish from the red, and bears little resemblance to the orange on the die). No, the actual purpose of rolling the die is simply to roll the same colour as your playing piece and thereby collect a piece of an uncommonly mundane jigsaw puzzle. Collect all your pieces before the 10 minute time limit runs out and complete the puzzle to win the game.
OK, so we've established that the most interesting part of the game play is putting together a basic jigsaw puzzle within a time limit. But what makes this game truly unique, and intensely irritating, is the main gimmick. You guessed it — the video. Fastforward the copyright warnings, etc, and you are first confronted with a static screen displaying the title of the game, and some pseudo rap music informing you over and over that "the TV is on". Watch your kids start to lose interest as this drags on for what seems like a minute or so. Then, finally, out comes the much anticipated protagonist — a puppet rat with an annoying voice and a misguided confidence in his own charisma and rapping ability. (He turns out to be less and less likable as the game wears on.)
After enduring a minute or two of Rap Rat's seemingly pointless verbal diarrhea, come to the conclusion that the game must have already started without anybody realising it, rewind the tape back to the start (so as not to reduce the time limit) and start rolling that coloured die to the sound of Rap Rat telling you all to say "cheese" — over, and over, and over again. Explain to the children that they have to listen to this annoying rodent and do what he says, since he is "the boss", as pointed out in the instructions. Thankfully, I had modified these rules to "just ignore Rap Rat", before his player punishments started to include returning all your puzzle pieces and starting again (which defies reason given the near impossible task of actually landing on your colour enough times to collect all the pieces within ten minutes anyway).
Player interaction is one of the most important parts of any good board game, and this game certainly has lots of that — constantly reminding each child to hurry up and have their go as they become distracted by the video, explaining to each child that Rap Rat is telling them to jump up and down on the spot until he says stop, consoling the child who is in tears because the whole thing got so darn stressful!
When Rap Rat finishes his cheese and wins the game (and he will), there is a sense of being cheated, but also a sense of relief when one can stop pretending to have fun and promise the kids that they will never have to play it again.
We decided to take it to the op shop. (Although not without a small sense of guilt — is it right to pass the curse on to some other poor unsuspecting family?)
I very much doubt whether the maker of this game actually thought to test it on real children. (Who knows, perhaps it was tested on lab rats?) If they had I imagine they would have realised that it just ain't much fun. Not only that, but the game play is ill conceived for any particular age group. The whole thing is just far too confusing for young children (say 3-5) and the gameplay far too tedious for older children and adults.
If there is ever a competition for the worst board game of all time, this one would quite possibly get my vote.