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July 2019


Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: Aug. 20, 2019


Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Rad'

by Thomas Wilde on June 19, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

RAD is a 3D action rogue-like game set in a post-post-apocalyptic world, where humanity has faced Armageddon not once, but twice.

The other Double Fine game at E3 2019, Rad is one of several title I played this year that were based on equal parts 1980s nostalgia and nuclear apocalypse.

Specifically, you start the game in a weird sort of Fallout-meets-the-Goonies situation, where you choose to play as one member of a post-WWIII girl gang. That character volunteers for a dangerous mission into the wilderness to find a new power source to keep your isolated village going in the face of the irradiated wastelands that surround it.

Toward that end, you're equipped with a high-tech bat, which finds its way back to your village on its own should you fall, and you're mutated by means of a magical keytar. As it turns out, the "Rad" of the title isn't just a mission statement; thanks to this first and most crucial mutation, your character now feeds on radiation instead of being harmed by it.

Rad is an isometric-angle, procedurally generated roguelike from Double Fine, led by art director Lee Petty, who's been at the studio for years. It's full of synthpop tunes, isolated bunkers, and neon colors, drawing on that particular brand of 1980s-era pop culture that was absolutely convinced that by 2019, we'd all be scrounging for lizard meat and scrap armor in the radioactive deserts of Manhattan. Since your character's a radiation sponge, you also detoxify the environment as you move through it, which means you can track your progress through a level by following your own trail of long grass and flowers.

You collect cassette tapes for currency and search for special statues to unlock boss fights, along your route to find and collect new power sources for your settlement. Along the way, whenever you fight monsters — which is a weird assortment of giant animals, like hermit crabs that live inside stacks of used tires — you absorb rads from them, and enough rads will suddenly trigger a brand-new mutation in your system. These mutations are permanent and specific to your current character, which gives you a new array of both active and passive abilities.

At E3 2019, where I played a complete version of the game, I got one passive buff that let me wade in the neon-green radioactive puddles and lakes without damage, and another one boosted my projectile range.

The first active buff, Home Slice, equipped me with a little backpack buddy who spit harmful goop at any enemy that approached me from behind. By hitting R1, I could drop off Home Slice to serve as an independently targeting turret, as well as a handy aggro-dump; a lot of enemies would go after him instead of me. If I hit R1 again while he was already active, Home Slice detonated, doing heavy damage to all enemies in a short range and immediately regrowing on my back. The second active buff gave my character a snake head, which I could use to launch a bite attack with greater range than my standard bat.

When you start the game, you have access to one of three possible characters, all of whom are only cosmetically different and offer no particular additional options. There were several more to unlock in the menu, which offered the mysterious option of "additional rules."

Rad is scheduled for release on PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One on Aug. 20 for $19.99. It's one of the weirder games I saw at the show; on the surface, it's a fairly standard roguelike, but the aesthetics and the possibility for a random suite of freakish mutations set it apart. It has the particular color palette and weird beerslam of genres that signify it's a Double Fine production, along with the '80s nostalgia factor. It makes me think we're starting to see the beginning of an upswell of the same love for the era that gave rise to "Stranger Things."

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