I have conflicting feelings about reunions. They can be a great opportunities to catch up with old friends and acquaintances about life events that have happened between your last interactions and the present. On the other, they can highlight the old cliché that we see on the screen: moments of posturing for attention and acceptance from people whose opinions really didn’t matter in the first place. The latter is a salty and cynical outlook for sure, but it is a stereotype for a reason. However, much like the majority of homecoming courts and the dreams of Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico, some things from the past just don’t age well. Today’s title in review begs that question. Is the past enough or does it need revisited in all its awkwardness. Specifically for the game in question, are the over-the-top mascots with attitudes and juvenile shock-jockeying of the 1990s enough to carry a game to success nearly 30 years later. We will find out in our review of Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition for Nintendo Switch.
In case you missed it, Rad Rodgers initially launched as a Kickstarter project with a goal of making a 90s era platformer. While the team’s initial goal was $50,000, they raised $81,861. On February 21st, 2018, thanks to publishing partner THQ Nordic, Rad Rodgers dropped onto PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Not to be left out, Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition entered the catalogue of Nintendo Switch Nindies nearly a year later.
(If you are curious about the process, you can head over to the Kickstarter page here.)
Rad Rodgers tells the story of a rambunctious rascal with a love for video games. After a long evening of gaming, he is forced to go to shut off of his console and go to bed. Sometime in the night, the console powers itself on and sucks a sleepy and unsuspecting Rad Rodgers into a digital realm. Upon waking, Rad is met by his now sentient and foul-mouthed console with parental restrictions unlocked! Together, they must save the inhabitants of the jungle by securing the Elder Tree’s control over the land and fixing any glitch they can find.
Judging that this task is going to take a whole lot of firepower, Dusty does the thing any responsible “adult(?)” in the room would: hands a child a machine gun with limitless ammo. Together, Rad and Dusty will tromp through the jungle, kill anything that would get in their way, and throw out one-liners as they do so.
It isn’t just Rad and Dusty’s one-liners you have to look forward to. There are a whole host of characters who join the fray with their own catch phrases. Along your journey, you will meet up with the likes of Duke Nukem, Lo Wang (Shadow Warrior), Shelly Harrison (Bombshell) and more. Each of them possesses a unique special move as well.
To complete each level, Rad must find four pieces of a cog which will unlock the door at the end of the level. This will take navigating difficult territories, collect keys, solve puzzles, and do a whole lot of platforming. As you are platforming, you will also collect gems, find secret locations, special weapons (with limited use), unlock hats and playable characters, and so much more.
There are also moments throughout the game where you must control Dusty in the digital world to fixes glitches in the system. Once you fix these glitches, platforms in the world will appear and you will be able to progress toward your goals.
At the end of each level, you will earn a score for how may collectables and secrets you found, tallied against how much time it took you to do all of it. There really is a lot going on.
Which is where Rad Rodgers begins to falter.
There are a number of levels within Rad Rodgers that have so much going on in the background and foreground that it can be very distracting. This makes platforming through those areas especially difficult. I am all for challenges in platforming, but it also strikes me as odd when the main gameplay mechanic is obscured by the art that is supposed to support it.
To make matters worse, there is inconsistency in how platforms behave. I had a few instances where two moving platforms collided and, instead of allowing me to jump onto the next platform, the platform itself pushed my character through the floor. I also had situations where some platforms would only allow me to grab onto the edges to pull myself up about half of the time.
Speaking of things that don’t always land well… let’s talk about the humor.
Humor is subjective, but it is also disruptive. In defining how comedy works, comedian Michael Jr., suggests that all comedy has a setup and a punchline. The setup exists to move an audience in a direction while the punchline changes the direction unexpectedly. Those unexpected turns are what illicit our reactions to it.
Using this definition, Rad Rodgers attempts to pull off punchlines with very little setup. At its best moments, the one-liners are juvenile, albeit with some humor, but border on Bubsy-levels repetition. At the very worst, some humor in Rad Rodgers can be ridiculously cringeworthy. Maybe it is in personal taste, but it is difficult to stomach overt sexually charge humor in game where a minor is the main character. Granted, you can turn the adult humor off and gore.
That isn’t to say there are not great moments of humor in the experience. Rad Rodgers pulls off its Easter eggs with incredible skill with hilarious nods to the games that inspired it and it even pokes fun at itself. Even the menus and HUD capture a nostalgic joy of the games of yesteryears.
Rad Rodgers feels like a middle school Commander Keen that grew up in Duke Nukem’s house on a steady diet of Conker’s Bad Fur Day and made it his life goal to replicate both of their vibes. It embodies many of the things that we loved about early 90s platformers along with some of the tropes that just have not held up well over time. With all of the easter eggs and cameo appearances, it is a fun throwback to an earlier time in gaming, but does have some buggy platforming.
Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition is $29.99 USD for Nintendo Switch.
The product discussed in this article was provided by PR for the purposes of review.
COMPARE TO: Early Duke Nukem, Commander Keen, Bubsy