THE DREAM OF THE 90s
Ah, the 90s. The decade of my youth. The decade intrinsically tied in my memory to plopping down in front of a massively thick television with my brother and playing games until the wee hours of the morn. It was the time of cheat-codes, local multiplayer, and secrets you probably didn’t know about unless you bought the guide or heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend. It was a simpler time for the industry. Slipgate Studios’ Rad Rodgers, a revamped version of the studios earlier Rad Rodgers: World One, attempts to bring players back to that time with a quick, witty, action platformer, and it does a pretty nice job doing so.
NOT GROUNDBREAKING, BUT FUNCTIONAL
There isn’t much story to be found in Rad Rodgers, but this isn’t really the kind of game I enter expecting one from. Things start with the titular protagonist, a youth in the early 90s that just wants to hang out and play video games. As his mother badgers him to shut things down and go to bed, his TV sucks him into the world of video games where he must traverse dangerous enemies and environments with the company of his personified gaming console, Dusty. Platforming here is a fairly standard affair, and emphasizes combat and basic movement over pinpoint-jumps or break-neck reflexes. I ran into a few frustrating errors where Dusty, who grabs ledges on a near-miss, latched onto something I didn’t want him to, but overall movement felt pretty good. You’ll also have some nice candy for your eyes to feast on while you’re shooting and jumping around maps composed of vibrantly colorful 3D graphics. While certainly not too hard to find, after playing my 50th sidescroller in a row with flat pixel graphics, I do appreciate a game using a more modern looking style that more closely resembles an updated version of the games Rad is taking inspiration from.
I wouldn’t really call Rad Rodgers a particularly challenging game compared to the uber-hard platformers that have gained popularity, at least on normal difficulty. There’s difficulty to be sure, but most deaths, save for a handful of times, really only took a retry or two, and I avoided the frustrating strings of death that so often turn me off of similar games. Enemies start out relatively easy, only either running straight at you or standing still and slowly popping off slow-moving projectiles, and while they do get beefier, they don’t get terribly smarter. While I enjoyed the actual shooting more than I expected, which felt surprisingly weighty, the enemy AI made the combat a bit less satisfying than it could have been. Larger enemies seemed to suffer even more. I’m hoping it’s an issue of fixable glitches instead of just how they’re designed to behave, but on more than one occasion one of the larger enemies would come out at me, then just stand still while I shot them from afar, which isn’t particularly fun. The minute-to-minute combat is satisfying enough though. While there aren’t a thousand different weapons to bounce through, what’s there all feels useful, and the temporary upgrades scattered through the map do a good job of making you feel powerful while they last.
Humor, especially meta, self-referential, and crude humor, are incredibly hard to pull off in a game, but the jokes in Rad Rodgers hit for me more often than not. I’ll admit that sometimes the vulgarity, mostly coming from Dusty, seemed a bit unnecessary and out of place, but I generally found myself enjoying the references and jabs, even though some of them went over my head. It’s also worth noting that the game does have a vulgarity filter, which I’d definitely recommend if you’ve bought the game for a child, and might recommend anyways if random cursing just isn’t your thing.
Every now and then- a few times per level- Rodgers and Dusty will come across a tear in reality. These “errors” (or rather, the result of lazy developers, according to Dusty) pull the player into the “Pixel Dimension,” in which Dusty must navigate small 2D environments to fix things in the real world. I think the idea is a clever meta twist on puzzles, but I grew tired of them fairly quickly. These sections are dependent on navigating tight corridors and avoiding quick moving hazards, but the controls are far too floaty to ever make doing so feel comfortable. After the novelty quickly wore off, they became something I tried to rush through as quickly as possible. They aren’t interesting or smoothly done enough to warrant their inclusion in the game.
At the end of the day, Rad Rodgers is a fine game that does what it sets out to do fairly successfully, it’s just that what it sets out to do isn’t anything terribly unique or special. The platforming is functional, but fails to introduce anything particularly memorable or engaging. The combat is fun, but simple, and the enemies do little more than die with a satisfying pop. Not every game needs to be groundbreaking or instantly classic, and there's nothing wrong with a game like this, that you can beat in a few pleasant lazy afternoons.
Most of the meta-humor worked for me, bright colors make the game nice to look at, weapons have satisfying weight to them, platforming feels pretty good.
Some of the vulgarity humor feels forced, pixel-verse sections are dull and frustrating, some strange enemy behavior issues.