Rad Rodgers seeks to recapture some of the glory of 90s era platformers like Jazz Jackrabbit, Commander Keen, and Conker. For the most part, they meld the classic feel with some modern touches, and it’s a good game up to level seven. That’s where I repeatedly encountered a game stopping bug that prevented me from going any farther.
The story is one familiar to any number of shows in the 90s. Rad Rodgers is playing video games, and his mom tells him it is time to go to bed. Like anyone addicted to the irresistible charms of late night gaming, he ignores her advice and is sucked into the world of his game.
When he wakes up, his gaming console, Dusty, is alive, and they team up to save First World. Like any good caretaker of children, Dusty gives Rad a gun, so he can blast away the deranged denizens of this magical world.
There are multiple powerups that change how you shoot. There is a grenade that can be aimed and ricochet into a target. There are fiery blasts that take the shape of birds and can set enemies and crates on fire. There is also a rapid-fire that sacrifices a little accuracy for overwhelming power. Although there is plenty of variety, the standard gun is the most versatile, and it’s the one I preferred.
While shooting helps you empty the world of baddies, it is not enough to complete the level. You must collect the four exit chunks scattered throughout the level to unlock the final door, and this will require jumping, swinging on vines, and collecting keys to open doors while avoiding hazards along the way.
The world consists of eight levels, several challenging pogo levels, and a final boss. In the pogo levels, you continuously bounce to stay ahead of the quickly rising water. It requires some memorization, and it is a nice callback to older games.
The regular levels are long enough that it will take you a while to complete. With only three lives per level, I was a cautious player on normal. Easy mode gives you infinite lives to continue at your last save point, and hard mode is for those looking for more of a challenge.
The levels are made to be explored. They are not a single, linear path from left to right. You can move back and forth and even reach the end of a level without being able to exit. There are areas above and below you with secret areas containing more gems and health-giving hearts to collect, new hats for your character to find and wear, weapon powerups, and exit chunks. They are densely populated, and I always had something else to find, grab, or shoot.
There are also portals to the Pixelverse that only Dusty can enter. These heavily pixelated areas allow Dusty to add missing platforms or remove an obstacle in the world to allow you to move forward. They are filled with enemies and hazards to avoid, and some have electrical node puzzles to solve in a certain amount of time.
The game captures the feeling of those 90s era platformers with a charm of its own. Dusty is a foul-mouthed, console companion for Rad, and they drop little catchphrases and references to older games and gaming. They and other characters in the world even make some comments that break the 4th wall. Although some are repeated a little too frequently, they can be funny.
If you want to tone down some of the language or pixelated blood, you can engage the parental controls from the menu. This is great for playing while your kids are awake. As a side note, I may have had the settings wrong once, but it seemed like a naughty word or two made it through.
The music is another place that captures the feeling of the era. Whether it is rocking guitars or electronic music, it sounds good and fits with the era they are trying to emulate. The music reacts to gameplay by slowing down at certain points and changed as I was losing health. It was a nice touch.
Although I would have liked a little more detail on the models, the cartoony visuals were very good. The world is bright and colorful across the the grassy and watery worlds with a pixelated filter over some parts.
Rad Rodgers also joins other games that give you a sense of depth in each level. In one level, there is an erupting volcano in the background. Branches in the foreground temporarily obscure your vision as you ride an elevator in another. The movement is not distracting, and it gives the game a much nicer visual presentation.
Technically, the game performed very well at first. Loading screens are minimal, and they only occur at the beginning of a level. I played for a while with no issues, but I experienced multiple crashes later. I am running the PlayStation beta software, so I am not confident about blaming the game for this.
That is not the case with the bug I mentioned at the beginning. In level seven, you encounter a boomerang wielding boss. The doors to the room close at the beginning of the fight, and they will only open after you win.
While playing in normal difficulty, I was unable to beat the boss due to a bug that happened each time I reached him. There are platforms over electrified water in the room, and he slid off a platform and was stuck, only able to turn left or right. The electrified water had no effect on him.
You can only cause damage to him when he is not holding his boomerang, but he is holding it in the water. If you get too close to him, touching his boomerang will hurt you, but you cannot kill him. I killed myself and replayed the entire level, only to find he became stuck in a different spot.
Since there is only one save slot, I replayed the entire game on easy difficulty, hoping that I could beat him before he could glitch out again. This time, he glitched into the middle platform.
Easy mode will give you infinite lives from the save point, but you save right before a boss fight. When I killed myself this time, I just came back to life in a sealed room where the boss was already stuck beneath the middle platform. I could try to replay the level again from the beginning, but three separate times in three separate spots is enough evidence of a bug. (Check the video review for more details.)
Rad Rodgers is a fun retro platformer that really does a great job of reminding me of the games that inspired it. The levels are well-designed with nice visuals and retro music, and there is plenty to enjoy.
Unfortunately, this is only true through level seven. Although that is the majority of the game, I cannot recommend it to anyone until it has a patch or two to fix the bug that keeps you from enjoying the rest of the game.
Rad Rogers PS4 Review
- Overall - Not Bad - 5.0/105.0/10
Rad Rodgers is a retro platformer inspired by Jazz Jackrabbit, Commander Keen, and Conker. With his potty mouth console, Dusty, Rad must save First World and restore the Elder Tree. The levels are filled with collectibles and hidden areas, and the visuals and music combine into a game that was created with a lot of love for its inspiration.
Unfortunately, this is completely undone by a game-stopping bug in level seven, which I hope will be patched quickly. If it is, the game is good, but for now, I cannot recommend a game that cannot be finished.
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