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Rad Rodgers

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Interceptor Entertainment
Release Date: Dec. 1, 2016


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PC Review - 'Rad Rodgers: World One'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 21, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

Rad Rodgers is an action-packed 3D side-scroller inspired by the precision platformers of the '90s.

Buy Rad Rodgers: World One

For the first years of gaming, platformers were the kings of the market. It didn't matter if you were talking about Mario and Sonic or Commander Keen, someone, somewhere probably had an oft-beloved platformer. As gaming advanced, the platformer fell to the wayside. It is by no means a dead genre, but it's fewer and farther between than in the old days. Rad Rodgers: World One is a bite-sized taste of that old-school gameplay. It's clearly inspired by the Amiga platformers of old but with a modern flourish. The result is fun, if perhaps too enamored with the olden days.

Rad is a young boy in the '90s who loves video games., but his mother demands he get some sleep instead. Right after Rad rests his head upon his pillow, the TV begins to make some very odd noises. Before he can question it, he and his beloved video game console Dusty are warped into the video game world. Now Rad is forced to star in his very own game, joined by his surprisingly foul-mouthed and perverted sentient console pal, to restore the Elder Tree and find a way home.

Rad Rodgers opens up with you having the option to pick between adult or kid mode. The major difference is that adult mode includes some uncensored swears and risqué jokes that aren't present in the kid version. I bring this up because the game doesn't quite manage to hit either extreme. At the dirtiest of times, the game is just an iota away from being kid-friendly. It's a cute game despite that with a lot of silly jokes, but the writing gets repetitive. You'll hear lines for a few major events (e.g., collecting 100 gems to get a 1up) repeated again and again.

The core gameplay is old-school platforming action that resembles Metal Slug meets Donkey Kong. Rad is basically a kid with a really big gun. He can jump, climb, and shoot a ton of things, and that's the bulk of his mechanics. Dusty, as the pal who rides on his back, can use metal hands to grab railings and poles and unleash powerful smashing melee attacks. You'll have to use these abilities to tear through enemy forces and avoid danger.

Rad can upgrade his arsenal with temporary weapon boosts, including grenade launchers, flamethrowers and machine guns. These replace his main weapon until their ammo (represented by a helpful indicator on the gun) runs dry. The weapons are pretty fun, though you'll probably end up blowing all your ammo on relatively weak foes since there's no way to avoid using it. It's not a big issue, but it would've been nice to choose to use your regular gun instead of your bonus ammo. It is particularly noticeable with the grenade launcher, which has an unusual firing arc and detonation pattern that is often a drawback instead of an advantage.

Rad Rodgers is a semi-linear experience. It's no Metroid, but each level is designed around the concept of you finding shards of a key that's required to exit the level. Some levels are straightforward with the keys basically placed directly in your path, but others offer multiple selections and multiple ways to go about things. It's not overly complex, but it's a nice touch and adds some interest to the experience. It also means that each individual stage is quite long. Some can take as long as 10-15 minutes to finish. The gameonly has seven stages, so it's nice that each stage feels substantial.

In true old-school platformer style, there are also a number of hidden areas in the game. These areas hide health, extra lives, or secret collectibles. Some are out in the open and require some good platforming to reach, and others are deviously hidden and require more than a little cleverness to even notice. It's entirely possible to avoid the hidden areas if you want. They're there to help you build up your supply of lives and health mid-stage. As with most good platformers, there are also gems you can collect to earn 1-ups. Every stage has a set number, and getting 100% completion will involve finding them all.

The biggest deviation in the gameplay comes from portals to the Pixelverse. The portals are represented by distortions in space, and once you approach one, you play as Dusty floating around in a pixelated ether. You need to navigate traps within the zone to find glitched objects. Interact with the object, and you'll fix it in the real world to open up new puzzles and paths. These areas are short diversions. The enemies can be wiped out easily, and the traps can be circumvented with little trouble. Your health bar is represented by the stored pixels you collect from enemies. Run low, and you'll have less leeway for mistakes, though you'll get through each Pixelverse trip without taking much damage.

I found the Pixelverse segments the weakest part of the game. They're clearly there to give Dusty something to do besides sit on Rad's back and snark, but they're not very fun. The environment is really bland, the dangers feel repetitive, and the level design in these segments isn't very good. There's very little thought to them, as you're just zooming through and then pressing a button. They're not even particularly risky; failure means Rad loses a heart, but it's exceedingly difficult to fail.

As a platformer goes, Rad Rodgers is a middle ground between modern and old-school. It's designed with an old-school sensibility, but it isn't particularly difficult except for a few nasty jumps. There's also the choice between controller and keyboard and mouse controls. The latter is more of a significant boost than you'd think, as you can manually aim the crosshair and make faster and more accurate shots than a controller user. I tried both control methods, and the keyboard and mouse made the game significantly easier. It felt like it was designed for a controller, though, since the keyboard movement controls occasionally flubbed in a way that the controller didn't.  

Rad Rodger's biggest flaw is that it doesn't do much that's original. Despite the premise of being teleported into a video game, it rarely feels like you're in one. It doesn't take advantage of being a nostalgic throwback game. Dusty could be replaced by a talking parrot, and almost nothing would change. It's a fun platformer, but I never got much of a feel of '90s nostalgia. The graphics are quite nice, but they don't evoke the sensation the game wanted I grew up with Commander Keen and Duke Nukem, and while the gameplay certainly evokes those, the style doesn't. It's a fun platformer, but it's not a particularly creative one.

Visually, Rad Rodgers is pretty nice. It's colorful and very busy, and the animations are good. In some ways, it almost feels too busy, but it's hard to complain. The environmental variety is nice for the low number of levels, and it ran quite smoothly. The voice acting and soundtrack are solid, if not particularly exceptional. My biggest complaint is the lack of voice clip variety. For a game priding itself on its personality, there simply needs to be more. The music is very nostalgic, especially if you're fond of old Amiga games.

At the end of the day, Rad Rodgers: World One is a cute first taste of a throwback platformer. The game is not particularly long or deep, but it's an enjoyable romp. It's fun to play and has solid level design and enjoyable mechanics, but the nostalgic throwback theme is wasted on generic foes and settings. Fans of old-school platformers will find a lot to like here, including a number of jokes clearly designed for them, but newcomers might find it too generic.

Score: 7.0/10

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