It’s a tale as old as time: The maniacs have blown up It, and the Couple Unlucky survivors must pick the pieces up and begin civilization anew. Double Fine’s Rad, however, takes it one step farther. A second apocalypse has happened, and in accordance with the omnipresent narrator, the survivors’ one-word reaction is actually the logical and correct one:”Seriously?”
In the next pile of ashes, however, a new hero arises. The Remade, you, A blunt weapon-wielding child of the endtimes who has been tasked with the Menders–the new architects of this era –with going forth into the treacherous radioactive hellscape armed with merely a baseball bat and a slew of ungodly but powerful physiological mutations to locate a new source of power for humankind.
On paper, that seems horribly serious. In practice, however, it is Double Fine, a programmer that appears physically incapable of making a game that’s a downer. The Menders give the Remade their powers employing a magic keytar, for crying out loud. Really, right off the bat, the most striking and engaging thing about Rad is the look of the apocalypse. Earth is certainly ruined, nuclear-blasted several times over, but it’s reached a stage of becoming overgrown with luminescent plants, snaking, sentient vines, and neon consequences of pinks, greens, and purples. That is less the lifeless worlds of Fallout or Rage and more like a bizarre Saturday morning cartoon of Alex Garland’s Annihilation.
Rad, however, is a double entendre of a name for the match referring not Just into the irradiated nuclear landscape, but to the overpowering 1980s nostalgia. The booming narrator may be ripped from any number of classic action movies. The heart globe where the last humans create their home is an oddball microcosm of early’80s bric-a-brac, right down to the funny, smart-alecky characters all bearing the names of famous characters out of’80s films (Biff, Lorraine, Sloan, etc.). The soundtrack is filled with incredibly catchy off-brand riffs on famous tunes such as Van Halen’s Jump, Michael Jackson’s Beat It, and Stan Bush’s The Touch. You can push the’80s vibe even further with some of the CRT filters in options, but it makes an already occupied aesthetic appearance nearly indiscernible.
And best you believe, you need all of the benefits and awareness you can get. As cool and fun and inviting since Rad seems on the outside, it will become apparent very early on that Rad is, above all , aggravatingly tough. It’s a roguelike, hence the levels are all randomly laid out, but it is otherwise a ridiculously simple old-school, top notch action game. When you make your way to the wasteland, you can jump, hit stuff with a bat, and dodge. There are a few special tricks you can employ that may help, like a jump kick, an aerial crush attack, along with a distance-closing lunge, but the game doesn’t let you know any of this in the outset. There is no real tutorial or in-game sign system. Instead it merely drops occasional fresh tips during its loading displays. It was hours in my playthrough before the tip came up telling me about the brute strike, and it felt like hours before had been wasted not knowing it was there.
A gentle learning curve would be fine if the wastelands weren’t so Unforgiving, although a wide variety of enemies, with fairly predictable attack routines, you’re just far too fragile for far too long in this game. When things kick off, you receive three hearts. Enemy strikes strip away half a heart normally, and once they’re gone, you’re starting over. There are power-ups you receive after every boss that grant extra hearts and/or split one of your hearts to thirds rather than a half, but you’ll be amazed how little a difference that makes. When there’s more than 1 enemy onscreen at any given instant, cheap hits are a constant danger, and no matter how well you’re doing in your own run, walking to the wrong area and into the wrong group of enemies all striking in the wrong time means it could be game over in seconds. In the cases where it’s not, health is such a frustratingly rare commodity that even taking extra care from then on means maybe going for quite some time with only half a heart, bleeding to death all over the cracked pavement. Yes, that is a staple of the genre now, but in the best examples of it there’s a degree of preparation you’re in a position to possess where you feel like you have a fighting chance. That doesn’t happen often in Rad.
What you do get is that: Every enemy you kill creates a certain amount of Radiation which it is possible to soak up, basically behaving as XP. Once you’ve booted up, your system gains a random fresh freaky mutant power. This is Rad’s biggest hook. The forces themselves are wildly creative and wonderfully animated. You could end up with something as simple as a pair of bat wings, allowing you to essentially gain a double jump and glide skill, or being able to throw your arm like a boomerang. Or you could end up with something just bonkers, like using a deformed twin increase out of your weapon arm to extend your range and strike power or the capacity to give birth to two spider-baby versions of you who’ll encounter battle and attack enemies. When you return to the hub world together, the NPCs’ reactions are some of the most hilarious dialogue in the game. As conceptually imaginative as these abilities are, some are vastly more useful than others, and given how swift death comes for you in this game, obtaining a lame person at the outset basically means your entire conduct is doomed.
That’s normally the case for virtually everything meant to help you in Rad: A little too much of your success is determined by sheer luck more than skill. You can collect cassette tapes–the game’s currency–and deposit them in the bank between stages or spend them on items with some of the scattered retailers around, but maybe not knowing what new creatures to anticipate in an area or what strikes the boss will throw in you means running the risk of spending money on a powerup that is essentially useless throughout your current run. There are on-the-fly powerups called exo-mutations you can find in some of the subterranean regions of the game, and while they are generally helpful initially, you can end up drawing on a handicap like additional vulnerability to attacks or a distorted screen, and this, too, can spell the end of a fantastic run quicker than it should.
The good news is that the longer you play, the better your Odds of Finally earning permanent updates that make the early phases more of a breeze. There is an entirely separate pool of permanent XP that you earn after you die that unlocks new characters, game versions, and upgrades. You get the ability to buy items on credit once you’ve deposited enough tapes to the bank, and also the local shopkeep gets better and better stuff that the more you purchase. There are just numerous blind, dumb, aggravating deaths to be had for to that point, though, and it’s not tough to imagine throwing in the towel long before then.
There are certainly things which make fighting the good fight worth it. The Story does require some subtle twists and turns as the mostly teenage population Of the heart world starts wondering about the purpose of all of these legends. The Boss fights get increasingly daring in style as you go along. I am still Discovering new mutations even after playing hours. And Even though an element of visual jumble, this is a compellingly colorful universe to Hang out for a while. It’s just that the joys of Rad require more work than Necessary to acquire, and that work can feel horribly thankless occasionally. Dual Fine’s hyper-colorful Spin on an’80s synthpop apocalypse makes for a few Gratifying nostalgia at the best of times, but there is a reason why, Eventually, most of us moved on to grunge.