80’s nostalgia has been somewhat of a premium these days. Shows like Stranger Things, The Goldbergs, Chernobyl and The Americans have drawn in tons of viewers while snatching up Emmy’s and Golden Globes. On the gaming side of things, the Hotline Miami series, Double Dragon Neon, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City have also highlighted the era with its electronic music, neon colors, and unique outfits. San Francisco based developer Double Fine has jumped on board with their game RAD. A rogue-like set in a post-post-apocalyptic world, it’s heavily infused with 80’s aesthetics.
The story goes that the world has experienced the apocalypse not once, but twice. Human survivors are scarce and all hope of continued survival rests on the shoulders of the young. The ones willing to go to the radioactive wastelands, take on mutant enemies, and activate beacons of power and defense. This is done by selecting from a short list of characters and getting out there with your handy-dandy baseball bat.
Like other rogue-likes, each run randomly generates the layout, enemy placement, and power-ups along the way. Within a run, you can end up being horse-like, bat-like, and numerous other transfigurations. These forms will help you traverse the environment and overcome enemies. Combine that with a daily challenge, there is plenty of content to keep players coming back for more. But is it worth the time and money?
Pros: The art style is fantastic. Somewhat reminiscent of Borderlands and Bastion, but really its own flavor. The music is very entertaining. It has a mix of active and subdued synth tracks that weave perfectly throughout the game and its loading screens. Continuing with audio, the narrator’s voice is smooth, funny, and adds another nice cohesive element to the game. While exploring certain areas (the underground ones, specifically), the mini-map shows the exact path you have walked along, a la Microsoft Paint’s airbrush tool.
Cons: Combat is somewhat hectic and not as rewarding as others within the genre. The main issue is the close range combat, which results in tons of hits taken by enemies with hard to predict attack patterns, a strong area-of-effect attack preference by enemies, and your own attack animation, which overwhelms a sense of what is going on in the middle of the screen. Speaking of the screen, the game has a CRT aesthetic during loading screens, a nice homage in theory, but not pleasant to look at in reality. The game is also a little too easy. I was able to beat it on my second run, with a seemingly decent loadout, but nothing overpowering.
Final Verdict: RAD is only kind of rad, not super rad. There are much better rogue-likes out there that do a better job. Games like Binding of Isaac and Dead Cells immediately come to mind. Those games do well at mixing up environments and challenging the player to get further than last time. RAD seems to miss the mark slightly here. That being said, the art is very enjoyable, providing a visual treat throughout each run.