Super Rub-A-Dub Hands-On

We rescue rubber ducks from clockwork sharks as we check out Sony's tech demo turned PS3 game.

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Sony Computer Entertainment has been using physics-enabled rubber ducks and bathtubs filled with realistic water to demonstrate the power of its consoles for a while now, but it wasn't until a couple of months ago that we learned the buoyant unofficial mascot was going to star in its own game. Super Rub-A-Dub will cast you in the role of a rubber duck tasked with saving baby rubber ducks by leading them through increasingly complex and infeasible bathtubs to plug-hole exits. The game is played exclusively by moving the Sixaxis controller to tilt the bathtub, and having spent a couple of hours doing just that, we're pleased to report that it's even more fun than a real rubber duck.

At the beginning of each bathtub, all of the ducklings are safe inside bubbles, and many of the early levels require you to do nothing more than burst all of those bubbles and then lead the babies to safety. Achieving gold medal times on these levels certainly isn't a given, though, because you're playing against the clock and need to earn significant time bonuses by rescuing as many ducklings as possible in a single "chain." In other words, the best way to complete a level is to get every single duckling following you before you get close enough to the plug hole for any of them to make good on their escape. You'll shave half a second off your time for every duckling that escapes as part of your longest chain, and you'll gain additional time if you manage to complete the level without losing any of them. Gold, silver, and bronze-medal scores are all good enough for you to unlock the next bathtub, but if you take too long to complete a level or lose too many ducklings, you'll have to try again.

After playing through the first few levels and familiarizing yourself with the controls, you'll find that many of the bathtub designs get more labyrinthine and perilous. Walls that are barely tall enough to keep the water in become points at which you can fall off the gameplay area completely when the tub is tilted in their direction, and levels in which you're required to jump between multiple tubs by jerking the controller upward give you plenty of opportunities to do the same thing. Fast-moving currents and whirlpools are hazards that you can learn to use to your advantage, though they're also very good at taking you to places you don't want to go if you're in anything less than complete control.

The only good shark is a flipped shark.
The only good shark is a flipped shark.

No sooner will you have gotten used to dealing with the aforementioned environmental obstacles than Super Rub-A-Dub will start adding enemies to the mix. Specifically, you'll come up against clockwork sharks who like nothing more than to eat rubber ducklings and, if given the opportunity, a full-grown rubber duck such as yourself. The sharks follow set patrol routes for the most part, but they're quick to veer from them if they catch sight of you, at which point you can simply try to outmaneuver them or flip them onto their backs for a short time by jerking the bathtub suddenly. Sharks on their backs can be sent off the edge of the gameplay area if you're quick enough, though you won't earn any extra points for doing so. In addition to the regular-sized sharks that you encounter quite regularly, you'll occasionally be confronted by much larger ones that move more slowly but can't be flipped, as well as smaller ones trapped inside bubbles. The trick with the latter, of course, is to make it through the level without releasing them.

Every fifth level you'll get to play a bonus stage in which you assume the role of a shark. Your goal on these levels is simply to eat all of the (mostly stationary) rubber ducklings within a time limit. It's an experience not entirely unlike playing as a ghost in Pac-Man vs. on the GameCube, though there are no similarly competitive multiplayer options here, unfortunately. The only multiplayer option in Rub-A-Dub is to have up to four players take turns completing the same levels while the game keeps track of their respective scores.

Super Rub-A-Dub is currently scheduled for release on the PlayStation Network Store on April 19. Expect a full review around that time.

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