Rad Rodgers opens up with a conflict that has existed between parents and children since the first video games entered the home:
Bedtime versus video games.
Rad is mid-level in a game when his mother interrupts to tell him it’s time to say goodnight to his “toy.” Rad is outraged. His console isn’t just a toy to him; it’s his friend. He’s even given it the name Dusty. His protests are overwhelmed by his mother’s parental authority. Reluctantly Rad turns off his game and slips into bed. He drifts off to sleep, dreaming of life as a digital hero.
Within moments of dozing off, Rad is awakened by a terrifying sight. His console is on, and his the television screen is glitching. He tries to turn them off, but he’s sucked into the video game world instead. In this alternate universe, Dusty is alive, monsters are real, and he’s a frustrated, game-loving kid equipped with a big gun. It’s not a nightmare; it’s a dream come true.
Interceptor Entertainment, the developer of Rad Rodgers, earned major points from me by making the game as player-friendly as possible. There are three difficulty levels so anyone of any skill level can enjoy the game. The player can choose between a gamepad or keyboard controls, and keys can be remapped for either choice. There are also settings to reduce the gore and foul language so younger kids can play, although that feature isn’t perfect; The subtitles are censored, but the audio is not.
The opening cut scene does its job well: It sets up the action, gives you an idea of the character’s personalities, and provides a storyline to explain what’s happening. The intro cutscene serves another, more subtle purpose. When Rad transitions from the real world to the game world it shifts from a comic-book style storyboard to a pixelated level screen and continues to a fully animated 3D movie. This foreshadows the gameplay the player can expect. Rad Rodgers is a platformer in the style of old-school 90s games but seamlessly blends modern graphics and features into the classic theme.
The game world is a vibrant cartoon-style fantasyscape with landscapes ranging from blue underwater caverns to fiery volcanic terrain. Even the enemies are beautiful, fairy-like creatures wreathed in vivid color.
The two characters, Rad the kid, and Dusty the anthropomorphic game console have a symbiotic relationship. Dusty rides in Rad’s backpack. Rad does the running, jumping, and shooting, Dusty helps Rad with climbing and smashing. The relationship and gameplay are similar to the Nintendo 64 game Banjo-Kazooie.
Dusty also serves a secondary purpose. The “game” that absorbed Rad is glitched. As a result, Rad doesn’t have everything he needs to finish each level. When the duo approaches a glitch, Dusty enters the Pixelverse to repair it. In this world, Dusty has his own health bar, which Rad refills by killing enemies.
The Pixelverse helps to break up the normal gameplay and adds another dimension to the types of puzzles the player faces. Rad’s puzzles are more about dexterity, speed, and aiming while Dusty’s trails are more about precision, timing, and finding the hidden object in a maze.
There are four temporary weapon modifications Rad can find. One will transform his single shooter into a machine gun and another launches a flaming eagle. My favorite is the super laser gun that blasts a violently purple beam of explosive light at hapless enemies.
As in many platformers, there are secret areas hidden with gems and other power-ups for the player to find. This adds a lot of replayability for players obsessed with obtaining 100% for each game. It won’t be easy. There are golden lions secreted away on each level. Even if you can find them, they’re not easy to reach. The lions are, arguably, the hardest part of the game.
Dusty has running commentary throughout the game which fits his abrasive, crude humor. The comments can be triggered by specific events, like taking damage or finding a secret. The problem is that the damage comments are randomized. If the character falls into water, Dusty reminds you not to jump on enemies. If you take a single hit and are barely damaged, he starts beeping at you. It would be better if his comments fit the context of the events.
Rad Rodgers is an episodic game. World One was a lot of fun, but unless new levels offer different types of challenges and environments, it could get repetitive. I’d also like to see gem collection serve a purpose other than reaching completion goals. Purchasing power-ups or locked levels would be ideal.
As an original 80s gamer, Rad Rodgers hits all the happy places. It has elements of the perfect classic platformer, sidelong references to my favorite old games, but still has the advantages of a modern, original game. Rad Rodgers is fantastically fun, and I’m looking forward to adding the next episode to my collection.