Rad Rodgers is a boy who plays too many games, or so his mother seems to think. The game starts with a cutscene of her telling her son off for playing his non-specific games console instead of brushing his teeth and going to bed. “I don’t need to brush my teeth!” grumbles Rad as he flings himself into bed. Later that night, he wakes to his TV making strange noises despite not being turned on, and is then pulled into another world as his now sentient games console, Dusty, discusses how Rad did try to turn the console off as well, but cracks “that’s a job for my ex-wife.”
The game’s introduction tells you everything you need to know about Rad Rodgers. It’s an old-school side scroller starring a kid called Rad and a naughty, fourth wall breaking sense of humour. Rad finds himself in a vibrant, 2.5D world and is swiftly handed a gun and told to go shoot things, before his new console companion congratulates itself on a successful cutscene. It’s quite charming, at least for a while, and certainly brings a few laughs along the way.
Playing the game is similarly peppered with amusing dialogues, but it also has a lot of repeated phrases which quickly become repetitive. The levels are quite well designed, particularly with the way they usually fold back on themselves to prevent back tracking, and they’re full of secret areas that Rad likes to remark on, usually by saying “Radical!” which also gets old surprisingly quickly. There’s plenty of swearing as well, but you can turn it and the blood off when starting a new game if you want to avoid it for some reason; the game probably still isn’t really kid friendly with it turned off anyway.
Dusty likes to repeat dialogue too, often reminding you that you need to collect all four quarters of the coin to finish a level, something for which you have been looking the whole time, as it’s the objective of each level. He still occasionally delivers an amusing observation, or says “let me pan the camera across the world” while highlighting things, and it’s genuinely funny when it’s not repeating itself. Sure, it’s all a bit immature but in a game starring a gun-toting child called Rad Rodgers that has an ex-wife joke in its opening cutscene, you’d be remiss to expect anything less.
Between all the jokes, the gameplay is pretty solid. There is plenty of jumping on springs and avoiding spike traps, and finding your way through is usually not too difficult due to the way the game loops back on itself, though I find myself unsure once or twice. Enemies are not exactly smart, a few just stand and shoot at you from a distance, other, flying enemies just dive bomb you and others charge you. They’re not challenging alone but when you find a mixed group there can be a little trouble, though rarely anything so challenging that I got stuck.
Unfortunately, the controls seem to have a small flaw. The game is clearly best played as a twin stick shooter, but jump isn’t mapped to a shoulder button. Whilst you can aim to an extent with the left analog while moving, obviously that involves moving towards what you are aiming at, which isn’t ideal when trying not to die, and the lock-on option is a little spotty. You find yourself with your thumb switching between the right analog and the face buttons, which is awkward when transitioning from a platforming section to combat and is just overly difficult during combat as projectiles need to be jumped over whilst you are shooting. It doesn’t ruin the game or anything but it feels like an oversight.
You also get to control Dusty as he travels through the pixelverse to fix things in the game world, such as a platform that has been misplaced by the game developers. Dusty does this by travelling through what looks like a retro top-down shooter while avoiding hazards like lasers and punching enemies. Punching enemies quickly becomes hitting the punch button repeatedly whenever there are enemies nearby whilst going about your level-mending business. The pixelverse is the least engaging part of the game, which is a bit of a shame as the idea of “lazy developers” missing things and the game characters having to fix it isn’t a bad one, just lacking in execution here.
The worlds are detailed enough, brightly coloured and full of movement. You find yourself shooting through forests, ruins, the typical retro game environments, but given a far more modern sheen. The background of the levels tend to show places that you’ll reach later in the level and you can see it get closer as you progress, which is a nice detail, too. It’s a good looking game but it never reaches beautiful, still looking a little muted somehow.
The crucial factor to take into account here is the sense of humour. Do you like silly, immature humour that has no respect for the fourth wall? If you don’t, the gameplay probably isn’t strong enough to maintain your interest, particularly in a crowded genre. If you do however, the gameplay is strong enough to maintain your interest for the length of the game, slightly short though it may be.
Version tested: PS4