The greasy smell of grilled cheese lingering in the air. The crash of tumbling bowling pins as a ball plows through them. A nearby arcade machine bleeps and bloops near an air hockey table. This was my life every Monday as a little kid with my brother. My Mom had a weekly bowling league and we always disappeared to our little arcade room away from the lanes. RAD reminds me of that bowling alley as various Bandai Namco arcade machines sound off. This is our RAD review for Nintendo Switch.
It was a different time playing games while growing up in the nineties. I jumped from an Area 51 machine to battling my brother in Tekken minutes later. Wandering past arcade machines playing the sounds of Dig Dug and Galaga in RAD make me feel right at home.
You don’t have to have lived in the eighties to appreciate the aesthetic of RAD. The bright colors combined with teenagers that feel like they were taken right from the decade. Its art style and soundtrack set the mood for a time many of us don’t mind revisiting, even if it’s for the first time.
RAD follows a similar theme to Nuclear Throne where your character mutates to get stronger and take on tougher creatures. However, going a step further, your character in RAD becomes a beast or as the narrator loves to say, a “mutie”. From a flaming skull to spider legs, the variety of ways your retro teenager mutates is how Double Fine tries to keep every run unique. As any roguelike or roguelite goes, every run should be distinct from the last to keep it entertaining.
Random Mutations Determine the Difficulty
The challenge of a constantly changing layout combined with the struggle of new enemies thrown at you is what keeps people coming back. The mutations in RAD combined with changing levels accomplish that. However, the random mutations you get often determine the difficulty. It becomes a balance between your skill outweighing the lack of good mutations or vice versa.
The run I won in RAD had a Warhead mutation where my head became a ranged exploding skull on fire. I practically one hit a boss with the upgraded version of it. Meanwhile, in another run, I had giant bat wings that let me glide around the level. That’s cool and all, but they didn’t help me accomplish much. Maybe if I was trying to speedrun and not kill anything. Although, killing creatures is a major part of attaining rads to mutate and become stronger.
The mutations control how the combat flows in every run in RAD. This is an area where the combat is both strong and lacking simultaneously. The combat in RAD rewards those who play passively and let their summons do the work or attack from afar. There isn’t much room for playing differently, but those who want a handicap might engage more in melee.
A Slow Bullet Hell
Most encounters in RAD feel like a slow bullet hell with the occasional creature charging at you. The challenge is more along the lines of most roguelikes where it comes down to learning how enemies function. Once you learn how they work, they lose all their cheap ways of chipping away at your health bar. An enemy dropping lava at their feet on dying is more likely to kill you than a predictable boss fight.
The mutations you randomly get can completely decide how you play each area in RAD which can be neat. However, it completely removes the point of anything melee related because it’s often too dangerous to play close to enemies. RAD has a dodge mechanic that takes away from melee because it doesn’t react quickly enough to function well. Instead, the majority of the time, combat relies on waiting for an enemy to perform an attack and then striking once or twice. Unless you cheese a fight with summons and/or ranged attacks.
While the mutations often decide how successful your run is, it’s always funny to see what your character becomes. They evolve from a punk teenager to a terrifying spider with a cute living blob on their back. The jumbled Frankenstein creations from each run are a success of their own. Even though you can get unlucky with bad mutations, RAD does have a way to swap them if you stumble across a certain shrine.
The Narrator Keeps You Company
Mutations aside, the deep-voiced narrator is also one of the silliest parts of RAD. My favorite and most used attack is often a jump slam that knocks enemies away. Why is it my favorite attack? Because I love knocking enemies off the stage into a never-ending fall to hear the narrator’s reaction. He often quips back with silly responses like, “Redonkulous” or “Jabroni”. It’s led to my death multiple times as I repeatedly try to knock enemies off the world.
The narrator also states useless information like every single menu option too. It doesn’t add or take away from the game. It’s more silly than anything when I pause RAD several times and my brother nearby hears the narrator loudly say, “PAUSED”.
You might not get over a hundred hours out of RAD like some roguelikes, but for $19.99, should you? It’s a cute and retro roguelite that isn’t perfect but was an enjoyable nine hours for me. The procedural generation keeps the content interesting until you beat it and everything feels complete.
Compare To: Nuclear Throne, Rogue Legacy
A Switch key for RAD was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.