The ’90s were a good time for me and video games. I was at school, life was easy and video games were fun. There were no comparisons, frame rate reviews or pointless arguments over plastic boxes. Sure there was the Megadrive vs SNES competition but it was healthy and fun. Not like the toxic times of social media we live in now. Games were just games and I loved playing them during this classic era. I remember getting my SNES and my Megadrive, these were big moments for a kid like me and I look back on them fondly. When I was asked to review a game that was trying to bring back the nostalgic times of the ’90s I jumped at the chance.
Rad Rodgers is about a boy who plays too many video games. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too many video games but that’s just me. In the opening cutscene, Rad stays up too late playing his games and eventually dozes off. Who doesn’t, right? He is then awoken by his console who is now sentient and called Rusty, sure, why not? A strange vortex is now waiting for him in his TV, it sucks him in and Rad becomes the star of his own radical video game adventure. Its all quite generic but it does fit the style of game well and makes sense as you progress through the short campaign.
One of the first choices you get when starting Rad Rodgers is whether you want to play in kiddie mode or grown-up mode. A strange question I know but all becomes apparent shortly after starting this quirky little title. According to the splash screen, kiddie mode turns off the blood and swearing. This is a nice little feature meaning my kids could also play. It’s a good job too, some of the jokes and language is quite naughty. I like that though and it did make me laugh a few times.
There are 3 difficulty levels to choose from and several modes to try. You can play the standard mode, battle mode and even play with two players. This is a nice touch, I do think most games on the Nintendo Switch need to be 2 player though due to the form factor of the device. Battle mode is also a mode to be sampled if you get tired of the campaign. You can take on your friends in head to head battles and see who emerges victorious. It’s not a bad mode but I did prefer the standard campaign. I enjoyed playing that in multiplayer much more than the head to head mode.
This game was originally funded on Kickstarter and was aiming to be an old-school ’90s platforming revival. After playing this for many hours I kind of agree, it did remind me of many games I had played from that era. Most of the time Rad Rodgers is a standard platformer, you run jump and shoot your way through its various enemy-filled levels. It does remind me of a lot of games from my childhood, many of the 16-bit platformers I played and even earlier games like Commander Keen. You have to be really old to remember that one. Now and again you will need to backtrack, solve light puzzles and even repair the glitches or add parts of the game the developer has missed. This is where the game gets interesting.
This feature was one of my favourite bits in Rad Rodgers. Now and again you come across a glitched part of the game or missing assets left out by the developers. You then have to enter Pixel World, as Dusty to repair or find the missing game parts. It’s a nice addition to the game, very novel and like nothing, I have seen before. The game gets pixelated as you approach the glitches and the whole system feels fresh and unique. You have to move Rusty through a short level to find an absent platform or repair a game breaking bug. These sequences get harder the further you get into the game and they do break up the platforming nicely.
Littered through the game are different styles of gameplay too, some levels are pinball machines, some are pogo stick levels and it’s all rather peculiar. They break up the game quite a bit and separate the level styles so the platforming sections rarely become a chore. These levels are welcomed distractions but sometimes they did feel a bit shoe-horned in just for the sake of it. The levels were never fully fleshed out and never really felt necessary. It’s a shame really, I do appreciate a good pinball table.
During your romps through various wacky environments, you come across accessible buildings. These are normally occupied by zany characters who help you on your quest. Providing weapons, health or even unlockable characters. Some of the unlockable characters are great by the way and include appearances from well-known video game characters. One character, in particular, I really liked. A character from my childhood, whose games I should perhaps have not been playing as a young boy but hey, I turned out OK in the end. Once I unlocked him I rarely used anyone else. He even came with his trademark quips and witty remarks. I won’t spoil who it is but his name rhymes with Nuke Bukem. These characters can be swapped at any time in the game but rarely offered anything more than cosmetic differentiation.
You are armed with various weapons throughout the game and as I stated earlier you can get power-ups for them from various places. You can fire your weapons 2 ways, either in a twin-stick shooter control style or just by pressing a face button. The gameplay is very reminiscent of a ‘90s action platformer and most gamers will take to it straight away. It does feel a little dated and the controls are not as tight as they could be but I think it’s what the developers wanted. The title harks back to the days of the MegaDrive and the sprite-based games of the past. It even has secret areas, collectables and platforming sections that really feel like they were ripped straight from games from the past.
At the end of the levels, you are greeted with a results screen, detailing your statistics for the level. Standard stuff really. It displays how many kills you got, including the maximum amount in the level. The number of gems you found, your time, score and a few other stats. If you are going for 100% completion then these levels do have a bit of replayability to them, finding everything will take a little time. However, if you are someone who only plays these levels once then this game will not last you very long. There are not too many levels but they are varied and enjoyable.
Graphically Rad Rodgers can be a bit rough at times. It’s not bad but things do seem to run at a low resolution. Sometimes I did struggle to see platforms and items in the game, sometimes things disappeared into the background or got lost in the environment. This did not happen too much though and was not too distracting. Some of the neon effects are good and the pixelation when you hit the glitches is a nice touch. The enemies are designed well enough and are varied enough to keep you interested. The selection of characters is modelled nicely, even if they are mostly cosmetic. The environments are lush and bright and diverse enough to keep you engaged through its assorted levels.
I loved the sound design in this game. I am a man who liked a dirty joke and a bit of swearing. This game is full of it, literally. The jokes and swearing are littered throughout, it does fit the style of game and is not too overpowering. The voice overs are nicely done and the voice acting is believable. Some of the music tracks are very catchy and the soundtrack is very enjoyable. I do like how you can turn all the profanities off. If you have children they are safe to play, as long as you select kiddie mode at the start. It’s a really welcomed feature.
While I did not experience any issues in the performance department. I did feel the game was a bit rough around the edges. This may or may not have been the vision form the developers from the offset though. They wanted a ‘90s nostalgic platformer and that’s what it is. It’s a bit crude, a bit sluggish but overall quite fun to play. From someone who loves Super Meat Boy and platformers of that ilk, I just wish the platforming was tighter and a tad more responsive. As for framerates, glitches or any game breaking bugs, I had none. The game performs well.
On the whole, while I mostly enjoyed Rad Rodgers, a few things did niggle at me while playing though. The controls feel very stiff and sluggish. The game is quite short too, unless you are a completionist you will not be spending too much time within its levels. The additional level types seem like they were shoe-horned in just for the sake of it too, feeling light and not fully fleshed out. I would have loved for the pinball table stuff to be better. This all could all be the developer’s vision though, for it to feel like a game from the past and it does that admirably.
I really like the jokes and dirty language, it did make me laugh a few times. The system of repairing and fixing the levels through the Pixel World is entertaining, it’s a really unique and fun system. You can swap characters anywhere, play the whole game multiplayer and it’s all implemented quite well. The battle mode is a nice addition but not as fun as the main game, it’s a nice overall package that does feel at home on the Nintendo Switch. If you like 90’s platformers, crude humour and don’t mind something that’s a bit rough around the edges then you will like this title. If your looking for a tight, polished platformer then look elsewhere, this is not your game.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*