by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
In the 80’s, communist American pop-culture and early gaming icons have invaded the US and are taking over the country. It is up to you, Super Rad Raygun (a Gameboy with arms and legs), or “Ray” to your friends, to save the day. Playing through this monochrome olive-green world, enjoying all four shades of that colour, a connection to the early days of gaming is instantly felt. The nostalgia factor is strong and the aesthetics work wonderfully. Such a shame that the level design is rubbish, or I might have recommended this one.
Super Rad Raygun is a platformer with a heavy focus on nostalgia-inducing pop and gaming culture references. It’s monochrome visuals remind us of the technical limitation of early handheld game consoles such as the Gameboy and its synthetic soundtrack transports us back to the glory days of the .midi file standard. It’s gameplay is inspired by such greats as Megaman and even the scene transitions serve as a callback to the era when technology defined what was possible and what was not.
When the tutorial level is mastered, you will get a world overview not unlike Super Mario 3’s map. You will often be able to choose where to go, but I found that there most certainly is an ‘intended path’ as I faced challenges in one map that could only be overcome with a skill unlocked in the other, while that map proved to be a breeze. Why offer a choice in this case as opposed to a linear story progression, you might ask? Well, the former sounds a lot more attractive on paper, doesn’t it? As you progress through the world, you will pick up battery packs which you can freely assign to any of your available upgrade slots. These can be changed on the fly in-game, so you will always be able to match your setup with the challenge up ahead and your particular gameplay style, if you’re lucky enough to know what’s coming.
Upgrade slots, however, can only be expanded at Dr. Y’s lab at Cape Canaveral, and include your Blaster, Max HP, Battery, Agility, Protective Case, and Backlight, to name just a few. Maxing out your Protective Case, for instance will serve you well in a volcano where the environmental damage will melt away your circuit board in no time, but make sure you have at least one or two slots in the backlight filled so you can see something. This, of course, means there isn’t much left to upgrade your Health and Blaster, but such is virtual life.
Each level has checkpoint flags evenly distributed throughout, so when you die, you won’t have far to go to get back to where you were. Die too often, however, and it’s game over. This means that you are thrown out of that level and have to begin at the beginning of that level. Some 1UP miniatures of yourself are to be found, as are other Easter eggs and hidden trophies, so there is definitely something for the achievement whore to go after in this title.
Dying over and over again
Captain James T. Kirk didn’t believe in no-win scenarios. He obviously never played Super Rad Raygun. On numerous occasions, I had the unfortunate experience of dying and being thrown back to a previous checkpoint only to come back to the same spot with the knowledge of what was about to occur and find out there was no possible way of getting past that encounter without losing at least some damage. Those instances, when you face them with only a miniscule amount of health left, cause an insane amount of frustration. A very telling example; I ascended stairs up to the roof of a building and two enemies were waiting up there. They each came from separate directions, but they moved so fast that there was no way for me to reach the top before they were too close for me to jump away in time. They touched me, I lost the last of my health, got a game over screen and had to make my way back to that point to try again. Then, when I discovered that there was no way to avoid getting hurt during this encounter, I began hating Super Rad Raygun.
At a later point in the game, you dive into water with piranhas. They chase you and, once they have caught up with you, essentially occupy the same space as you in the game as they move at the same speed as you and are programmed to move to your location. This means that once they have caught you, there is no way for you to get far enough away from them to shoot them, and neither can you escape without jumping out of the water.
Nerves of steel needed
If you are a sucker for an interactive trip down memory lane, especially one with pleasing aesthetics and entertaining writing, then Super Rad Raygun might be the game for you. If you’re looking for a quality platformer with good level design, interesting enemies, and solid gameplay on the other hand, look somewhere else. The developers may be able to whip the title into shape with patches in the future, but until then I can only recommend it to those with nerves of steel.
A visually pleasing trip down memory lane with great music and sound design.
Awful level design, dull enemies.