Having been born in the ‘70s, and enjoyed helping the video games scene grow throughout the ‘80s, it was the ‘90s which really saw my addiction grow. Gaming was on a massive upwards surge and the humble platformer was very much behind its fast movement.
But whilst the shooters and huge open worlds have seemingly stolen the world’s more modern heart, the recent trend of reviving and reliving the glory gaming days of the 1990s is very much a thing.
And one game that is looking to take advantage of those nostalgic dreamers is that of Rad Rodgers… part puzzler, part old skool run-and-gun platformer, full on sentimentality bringer. Can a mix of the gaming scene from decades past, with a more modern day twist, really come across as good as we want it to?
Rad Rodgers tells the story of young Rad as he gets whisked into a strange retro world with Dusty, his trusty old games console. Now, Rad most certainly plays too many video games and this world plays on the fact that us gamers are a strange lot. With the foul mouthed, super lewd Dusty egging Rad on every step of the way, helping out with a power slam and edge grab when he can, this is a game that will very quickly bring a smile to the face of any mid-90s gaming freak.
In fact, I’ve been sat here smiling away and happily taking in Rad’s adventure, being wowed by the cutscenes and laughing out loud at some of the brilliant innuendos, cursing and adult themes that both Dusty and the strange hidden inhabitants of this gaming world come out with. See, each and every nod to the history of our beloved past time is brilliantly executed, witty and well scripted. It’s also very rude and so I’d highly advise switching on the parental settings should any child be nearby.
And whilst the cutscenes are great in themselves, initially at least, the action is just as good. A run and gun platformer in which you’ll find Rad jumping, slamming and shooting his way to victory, there is nothing in Rad Rodgers that will ever really test your gaming skills. In fact, with some fairly dumb AI – much like you would have got all those decades ago – it’s pretty much a case of just holding down a trigger whenever you see something move, before pushing your thumbstick in the rough direction. Being able to shoot at all angles with a variety of collectible weapon types is a real help too as the enemies which have attempted to corrupt this land are plentiful and will eventually begin to fight back. By the time they’ve realised what is going on though, any sharp shooter out there would have dispatched them with ease.
No enemy will give you a hard time, but the levels certainly will. For the most part things are great, with modern day visuals ensuring that the majority of Rad’s journey comes across in a delightful way. But every now and then a glitch will hit the system – with platforms failing to appear in Rad’s world. This dangerous spacetime breaking region is the Pixelverse, and it is here where things are left to Dusty to save the day.
See, as the visual look starts to deteriorate from super sharp graphics down to a pixelated affair, it’s time for Dusty to step in and navigate his way through a number of strange retro styled mazes in order to push the missing pieces back into the real world. Now, these mazes are filled with enemies and whilst it is easy enough for Dusty to skip on by, should you so wish you can stand and fight, smashing the attack button until his fists decide to dish out some punishment. If I’m honest, whilst I love the whole idea and the way the game switches back and forth between the modern and the retro, giving Dusty a bit of a job other than to slag Rad off, it’s all a bit forced, a bit simple and a bit too slow paced – at least when in comparison with the decent speed which the main action plays out with. Granted, the star of the show is Rad himself and his old console sidekick is just that – a secondary figure – but I really would have loved to see the pixelated retro scene embraced a bit more.
It’s not all rosey in Rad’s world either though and I cannot ignore the fact that whilst the initial opening is right on point, it doesn’t take long for the same old gameplay mechanics, and that slightly dodgy puzzle system to grow old. There are also a few issues with the whole jumping mechanic, and too many moments will see you missing that all important jump, leaving the need for repetition of whole sections until you get it right. Whilst that is not a massive issue in itself, the fact that those missed jumps are occasionally down to mechanical misadventures rather than a lack of skills from the player, begins to grate.
Further to this and Rad Rodgers isn’t the smoothest game out there either. There are times when it will start to stutter and screen tear begins to appear, with all-action fast moving sequences obviously the worst for these. Now usually I’m happy to let these go by without issue, especially if they are only very occasional, but on this occasion the stutter is enough to induce a headache.
But when it works, it works great and you’ll have a superb time with Rad. With multiple weapon types to embrace, a number of standard stages to explore across the decaying jungle setting in which Rad finds himself, and plenty of collectibles to hunt down, you’ll probably find yourself fairly addicted to this puzzling platformer. Hell, if all else fails, the inclusion of some, quite frankly brilliant, pogo style levels in which Rad goes all ‘Doodle Jump-y’, will most certainly draw you in. It’s just a shame that this addition is in sparse supply, whilst the collectible hats that could have been used to great effect, serve no purpose other than as standard headwear.
At the end of the day, if you were one of those who loved gaming back in the day, then you’ll enjoy what Rad Rodgers brings. It’s not the best platformer out there, but it’s still fun and will let you kick back with a huge smile on your face. Unfortunately you may begin to find that grin slowly turning to a grimace as the confusion and lack of direction in the latter levels takes hold. However, once you’ve played through things once, will quite possibly find that due to the relatively short nature of the stages, speedrunning opportunities, and the chance to hunt down secret rooms and try to 100% complete each one, the draw of Rad and Dusty just about outweighs the annoyances.
And that’s good because this is a game that deserves a bit of your attention… especially if you need a laugh and wish to relive that ‘90s platforming boom.