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Rad Rodgers

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: HandyGames (EU), 3D Realms (US)
Developer: Slipgate Studios
Release Date: Feb. 26, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition'

by Cody Medellin on July 12, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

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

Buy Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition

Most retro gamers think of the old consoles when it comes to run-and-gun gameplay with action elements. Titles like Mega Man and Vectorman are what spring to mind when the genre mix is mentioned. However, PC players also got to experience this with titles like Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit on a more powerful platform. Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition follows these footsteps, and while the gesture is appreciated, the execution isn't all that it should be.

For a throwback genre, the story fits the mold well enough. You play as Rad Rodgers, a kid who's obsessed with games. After he's told to go to bed, his console and TV turn on by themselves, and after a feeble attempt to shut them off, he's sucked into the world of a new video game. It seems as if the world's Great Tree has fallen ill, and with the help of your gun and your now-sentient console Dusty, it's up to you to find out why this is occurring so you can return to your own world.

The basic setup for the story is fine, but its attempts at humor don't land well. Almost everything is punctuated with crude language, which feels like it's done for shock value rather than an earnest attempt at being funny. Jokes about lazy programming and similar things also feel repetitive, so those lines are met with groans rather than smiles. It also doesn't help that the one-liners are often repeated several times, so a bad joke is tiresome when it's told for the fifth time in a level. This is certainly one of the few games where using the profanity filter makes things better rather than worse.

As alluded to earlier, Rad Rodgers is a basic shooting platformer from yesteryear. Rad can run and jump, while Dusty can use his long mechanical arms to reach for ledges or use pipes to traverse the environment. You can use old-school controls to shoot in the direction you're facing, but using your right analog stick in conjunction with the zR trigger allows you to shoot in any direction. Your main ammo is unlimited, and you can pick up other ammo types, such as rapid fire, a grenade launcher, and a phoenix.

The mechanics are simple, but the game isn't a straightforward jaunt from left to right or vice versa. Instead, it's more exploratory, as your main objective for most of the levels is to find all four shards or a disc that unlocks a door to progress. The levels aren't exactly freeform in that you can go anywhere at any time, but you will do lots of backtracking and opening of gates in completely different areas. The game still has a few boss fights, so those who want something more traditional will still find that here, even if it means going through levels that can average about 20 minutes in traversal time.

Unfortunately, the long traversal time per level exposes some of the game's problems with basic mechanics. For starters, enemies simply exist as something to shoot. Most of them will run around waiting to be shot. Some will fire back, but shooting at them will stun them enough that they won't have a chance to retaliate. Others seem unaffected until you finally kill them. No matter who you face, everyone is a bullet sponge, so you take more time firing at everything since no one dies easily, no matter how low on the enemy totem pole they are.

Traversal is another issue, and it's more frustrating since it is seemingly random. There are times when you'll jump for one platform and Dusty will immediately pull you up to another higher platform. That can be beneficial since you're probably aiming for that one anyway, so you've saved some time. Other times, you'll leap for a platform, and Dusty won't bother to help even though you've hit the edge and another attempt at that same jump would make Dusty reach out. The inconsistencies greatly hurt the platforming, as each failed attempt can result in some decent travel time to make another attempt, and for levels that are already so long, it makes everything feel like a chore.

The most frustrating part of Rad Rodgers is the sections where Dusty needs to get into the Glitchverse to unlock doors or place platforms in the game world. The concept is fine, but the execution is frustrating. Just about every segment is designed like the underwater levels in the original NES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The sides of the level will deplete your health, the rocks that hurt you are almost impossible to avoid, and enemies can hit you with constant beams of energy when you're in their vicinity. You can punch, but it does nothing to enemies, so your journey consists of avoiding things. Dying in the Glitchverse means losing some life in the game world, but that's tolerable until you reach points where you need to spend energy to power up things. Not having enough energy means that you're going to be losing life for no reason, causing these sections to be more frustrating than challenging.

The game has a few extras over its earlier releases. For starters, you can find a number of other characters with a history at 3D Realms, from Bombshell to Lo Wang to Duke Nukem. Even though their move differences are largely cosmetic, they have new lines to say throughout the game. Co-op mode works decently, even though the game wasn't necessarily built with two players in mind. A battle mode is also included, but since the normal mechanics don't seem suited for this, either, it's nothing more than a novelty.

The presentation is all over the place. Sound-wise, Rad Rodgers is quite good. Even though the lines are repetitive and the jokes are bad, the performances are good enough that you'll enjoy listening to the voices. The music is where the game shines, as it perfectly fits the levels while sounding rich throughout. Graphically, the title is quite messy. To be fair, the graphics are quite detailed, the lighting is cast well, and particle effects are in full effect, with your character constantly kicking up dirt and grass. Everything also moves at a good frame rate; even though it isn't at the coveted 60fps, it has no slowdown whatsoever.

The problem is that the world can be too detailed, and it can be difficult to tell what's a background element and what's something you can place your character on. What makes the Switch version worse in this regard is how blurry everything is, as if someone took the original PC game and smeared the screen with Vaseline. Considering the game's file size, this may just be a case where the original assets were downscaled too aggressively, so it looks like a 480p signal in docked mode, and nothing got better when playing in portable mode.

Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition has the basic building blocks to be a good throwback platform shooter, but it doesn't put it together very well. The shooting seems fine until you realize that most of the enemies are there only so you have something to shoot. The platforming is fine until Dusty gets temperamental in deciding whether to climb a platform. The Pixelverse sections are frustrating, the presentation feels badly done, and the extras don't add anything significant to the game. On a system with so many other better options in this genre, it's difficult to recommend this one.

Score: 5.5/10

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