Developed and produced by the book publisher Hodder & Stoughton, and based on horror writer James Herbert's 1974 novel of the same name, The Rats came out in 1985. The game was a strange mix of governmental strategy simulation, text adventure and survival horror. How that one got past the initial development pitch is anyone's guess. Anyway the game was released on the Commodore 64, the ZX Spectrum, but not on the Amstrad CPC. Though a version was planned, but never released.
The apparent juxtaposition of different games was generally well received on release. For an 8-bit game, with limited sound and graphics, it was surprisingly creepy and atmospheric. The game starts like a novel, with a prologue is written out in bold white letters across a black screen to setting the scene. Then a pool of torchlight is seen wandering around in the blackness, sudeenly red eyes appear in the dark. A heartbeat sound quickens. Suddenly, a rat pounces into view! Then blood-spattered screen, with eerie accompanying theme music.
The Strategy game involves stopping the spread of the rodent plague from the city of London and killing it off. A map shows the rat activity, you may deploy people to deal with them, carry out research or read through field reports. Holding back the rat infestation is pretty much impossible, and all you are doing is holding back the tide. Eventually the government will be forced to send in the army. But before that happens, players will enter into the text adventure part of the game.
The Adventure section, like the strategic one, is in real time. You are shifted to the adventure section at random intervals throughout play. Each entry into this section is precluded by an alarm sound from the computer. This part of the game is more like a series of mini-adventures. The text scrolls slowly up the screen, emphasising the real time aspect of the game, building the tension. And the rats are never far behind you, wherever you are.