Rad Rodgers is out to blast through a video game world with his trusty brawling console on his back and a nice big gun. It’s fun, but towards the end it can definitely be frustrating.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
Developer: Slipgate Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic, 3D Realms
Release Date: Feb 21, 2018
It’s a bit of nostalgia from the decade where I mostly wore flannel and military boots. Rad Rogers, short for Rodrigo Rodriguez, is the main character of a 2D action-shooter platformer in a style that feels like it draws it’s influences from a fusion of Commander Keen, Jazz Jackrabbit, and Metal Slug. The bulk of the action involves plenty of blazing guns, mini puzzles, item hunts, pogo sticks, and dirty jokes. The game looks wonderfully well rendered with 3D models in a 2D world and also has some fun with R-rated jokes throughout. For the most part, it provides about 8-10 hours or more of entertainment and has a sort of arcade feel to the action with lengthy levels. This is a new version of the previous release, Rad Rodgers World One. This new version adds some bonus levels and two mini-bosses along with some game balancing fixes. If you buy Rad Rodgers or had Rad Rodgers World One already, you will get both added to your Steam library.
Rad is a young boy, from what looks like the year 1991, who goes to sleep and and is magically sucked into his TV to play video games levels with his trusty talking console, Dusty. This arm swinging console is strapped to his back a la Doc Octopus as the two of them are off to save a video game world. There is an intro scene at the beginning and a quick mention of an Elder Tree not returning Dusty’s calls in the First World. That’s the extent of the story and there is no game world explanation other than a mention of a volcano. You won’t get any more story or history about this world until you beat the final boss. I feel it’s a shame because the world is gorgeous. The graphics remind me of the enchanting world created by the Trine trilogy, except with no puzzles. So, if you expect some storyline here, there is almost nothing at all.
On the other hand, there are a ton of jokes to listen to as you play and they are at most occasionally funny-ish, but it depends how crass you like your jokes and how dirty you can tolerate them. If “I’ll give you a bag of d****!” sounds funny, then you will be just fine. For those who find it offensive, I’d advise not picking this game up as the jokes often follow the same path. In the Options Menu there is a way to remove the bad words from the jokes by bleeping them out. I did this with my young kids around and the result was absolutely hilarious. Every time they heard a bad word it was bleeped, but then they would look at me and whisper an even nastier word in it’s place. I swear my son thought there were f-bombs dropping everywhere even though it wasn’t anywhere near as bad. My kids imaginations are way worse, I’m such a bad father.
For a platformer, Rad Rogers is very basic until the last few levels. Before those, don’t expect much in the way of incredibly timed areas or high concentration maneuvers, it’s almost entirely a search to find items and shooting with a bit of jumping until Level 6. If you look back at Commander Keen platforming, it’s along those same lines with somewhat slow movement that is more focused on exploring while shooting enemies, taking cover, or collecting items. Now, some of the special items such as hats and secrets are much harder to platform to. So, the real challenge for platformer junkies beyond the last few levels will be in collecting the special items. That said, I found most of the secret pieces to be downright impossible to get to. Hats are not too bad, but achievement hunters will have their patience sorely tested if you want all the items and achievements.
In normal mode, there are three lives you start off with along with three hearts for a health bar. You can aquire more lives by collecting gems and replenish hearts by keeping an eye out for them or going into houses. It’s not too hard to get at least one extra life, and towards the end of the game you’ll be counting on those as the difficulty ramps up a bit. There is an easy mode with unlimited lives, but once you start the game I believe you must finish it with the same mode. I only played on Normal mode. Three lives gets you through the first half of the game okay, but by level six I needed a minimum of four lives per level. There are eight levels in total with a few bonus stages using a polo stick and a final boss level. It’s somewhat short, but the difficulty in navigating these rather long levels makes up for it. Also, if you die you have to repeat the whole level again and that involves about 20-30 minutes per run give or take. After a few deaths, you begin to memorize the levels fairly well. It can make a 30-minute level into gameplays of two hours or more when you get to the tougher areas.
For the shooting part of the game, you have a total of four enemy types to attack with your blaster gun. You’ll be killing them for a large portion of each level, but once they are dead they do not respawn. They all lack any serious AI other than to aim at you. One runs around to cause touch damage, one shoots pink fireballs, one throws a spear, and one chases you to slam you in the noggin. Personally, I prefer sniping them from around a corner. Just like the health, you can grab some limited use gun upgrades here and there from secrets or going into the houses of the local inhabitants and getting whatever they have on hand along with a dirty joke that is not skippable. The action of the main gun has a slow auto-fire, but I generally preferred to just spam the attack button and shoot them down faster unless it’s at an angle. The upgrades don’t last forever and run out with a meter indicator on your gun. Of these, the laser and grenade launcher were the most fun and useful. There is a also an Excalibat upgrade that insta-kills enemies but instead of gore and blood, the characters just vanish. I thought this was an error in the settings, but after reviewing this I think it’s just how the weapon functions. Rather than smashing enemies to a pulp, it sort of poofs them away. As for the two mini-bosses, the middle mini-boss is very easy to beat once you see the pattern, but the Level 7 boss was very hard for me to beat and took several tries. I think something is wrong with the wooden ledge there, it’s much harder to jump onto than anywhere else in the game. I eventually had to find *two* extra lives, which happened by luck, before taking him on since he moves a lot and smashes you in a one hit kill if you get too close or throws a deadly boomerang. It is such a heart breaking thing to see the level you took forever to get to disappear with a boss kill and have to start the whole level over. The springy hole in Level 7 was also something I found quite distasteful, trolly even. It’s not impossible there, but expect to get frustrated or rage quit on that section. Things improved with Level 8, though, as the platforming was more timing and skill based. Level 7, though, almost made me give the game a Quit.
There are also mini puzzles in the ‘Pixelverse’ which are an essential part of the game and often prevent you from progressing further until it is solved, like some sort of game glitch. Most are mazes with walls that cause damage, pitfalls, and enemies. Since these are presented as glitches in the video game, you switch characters to play as Dusty. You move around until you spot the glitch and fist-punch it back to the level. Some are a sort of connect the dots type of puzzles using circuits. You just need to connect all the large orbs in the shortest path to complete them. It’s not too hard, just that it is never explained in the game whatsoever. I can see some people getting stuck on these electric puzzles without an explanation.
I enjoyed the arcade sort of Metal Slug feel more than the platforming and shooting. Most of the platforming is just too slow without any hard jumps or moves for much of the game. The shooting action is the best part of Rad Rodgers and makes the title substantially more fun because if this was just a platformer, it would have completely failed to entertain. Collecting the loot can be fun, but the blasting aspect is where it is at.
Overall, the controls felt right although there is no double jump which is sort of odd in my opinion. Rad moved where you wanted and platformed easily. There is a slight delay in the auto-shooting but I just pressed the fire button faster and it worked fine. You can move while firing or be still and use the right joystick to aim and the right trigger to fire. I used an Xbone and a Xbox360 controller to play. I found the the 360 controller smoother for some reason, which is not often the case for me.
You can get splash damage from TNT and bombs that fall too close to you. Keep that in mind when trying to dodge out of harms way. Also, the enemy with a spear tends to hit you no matter how hard to try to outjump it. Try to jump backward, but attempting to jump above it fails 95% of the time. There is no block or counter attack.
Soundwise, the effects are dead on and do a great job of giving you a sense of depth and purpose when shooting something or finding a piece of the key to the end of the level. The lasers sound zappy and the grenades have a fantastic boom. The music is very early 90’s era, and while I remember soundtracks like that in those days, I was never fond of them. A little too much rock for my tastes instead of what I thought would be better off with some SNES style music to keep it retro. Some levels have better music than others. I disliked the music in Level 7 enough to turn it off.
Rad has the definite advantage here as the AI is not smart at all. With the exception of the enemy who chases you, the enemies can be sniped from afar in just about every location. The chasing enemy, on the other hand, would sometimes jump forward to attack you, even if you are perched up high. The one part I felt was not balanced well was the second mini-boss. The wooden platform is purposely harder to jump onto, and Rad got stuck on geometry several times there, mostly on the Save Icon. The Boss himself also got stuck once between two lily pads and made me restart the level.
I thought I would encounter a ton of bugs, but other than the second mini-boss fight I only had one. On Level 6 there is a tree you have to jump down and underneath. If halfway up the tree, when you move to jump down you instead jump up and into a thorn bush. You can only move down if you are very close to the bottom. Maybe it’s not a glitch per se, but very annoying to jump down and instead move upwards into harms way. This was played on two different PCs. In so as far as I can tell, the rest of the game is fine.
With Rad Rogers I have some mixed feelings. Level 7 really felt tedious and buggy. I had a more favorable rating before then even though the other levels didn’t stand out much, at least it was fun. Level 8 changed my mind a bit, as that level had more well-balanced timing based play compared to the rest of the levels. I do wish the platforming was more interesting earlier on in the game. Shooting is fun, but only the grenades and lasers work especially well. The presentation is great, yet the dirty jokes get pretty old after awhile. It’s a shame, because I was hoping for a hidden gem, but it fell short of that. With a $20 price, it should be a $14.99 game. It’s just ok. So, I’m giving this a Save for Later rating to buy only on sale or bundled