Review: Rad Rodgers is a Retro-Styled Platformer Stuck in its Teens
Rad Rodgers started its life as a Kickstarter game, hoping to fulfill a nostalgic itch while simultaneously eschewing kid friendliness with promises of gore, foul language, and adult themes. Rad Rodger manages to fulfill these promises while making a ton of callbacks to the 90’s, with a protagonist obviously invoking Commander Keen. They even got Jon St John (voice of Duke Nukem), to voice Dusty, the sentient console that accompanies the Keen-like Rad on his journeys. Despite hitting all of these marks, Rad Rodgers was less of a nostalgic trip, and more of a grating slog. Originally released on PC in 2016, Rad Rodgers has made his way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
You play as Rad, a kid who gets sucked into his video game world. His sentient NES-like pal Dusty (St John) is his foul-mouthed guide, companion and helper. This game is absolutely dripping with references to 90’s technology and games. Unfortunately, it’s also dripping with a 90’s gross-out edge that ends up feeling like a whole lot of sleaze. Most of the dialogue is poorly acted, making the cringe-inducing lines fail even harder. Dusty is the source of most of this cringe—and his presence makes it feel like you’re hanging out with your old, sleazy uncle. I can almost smell the BO and cigarettes.
Gameplay-wise, Rad Rodgers is a pretty standard action platformer. The movement feels okay, but not as tight as other platformers. There is the normal jumping, running, and climbing (with Dusty’s arms pulling Rad around for the climbing bit, which is a cool touch) but nothing too out of the ordinary. The shooting feels surprisingly great, though, with impact most first-person shooters fail to achieve. There are multiple power-ups that can change the projectiles your gun shoots, but again, nothing groundbreaking. The gore that was promised is mostly not gratuitous, but can also be turned off by enabling kid-friendly mode. This mode also bleeps out the swears, but gems like “so this is what 3.5 inches tastes like” remain intact.
I’m not an overly sensitive person, but I found most of Rad Rodger’s dialogue to be trying way too hard, placing it directly into the realm of uncomfortable. Dusty would quip “you’re a psychopath in the makin’ kid!” as Rad mows down enemies, or villagers would wax ad nauseum about rectums and objects which have been placed therein. It’s a teenager’s idea of edge, and while I can usually appreciate that sort of humor, Rad Rodger’s misses way more than hits. It’s just not very funny.
The world and of Rad Rodgers looks pretty darn neat at first glance. It has vibrant levels that are absolutely teeming with ambience. Unfortunately, it’s way too busy, to a point that distracts from the action and makes enemies and items hard to see. The occasional foreground foliage even blocks my view of jumps or projectiles, which is hugely disappointing for a game that touts itself as a “precision platformer.” Still, the levels are large and mostly varied with lots of secrets to find and gems to collect. Exploration is even compulsory, as four exit pieces must be collected to complete each level, and they’re often scattered about.
There are also obstacles that must be either removed or ramps/platforms put into place by Dusty so he can enter what’s called “the pixel world.” This is a sort of minigame where Dusty floats around a pixelated area, avoid the walls and obstacles, and fights enemies to interact with an object, often to manipulate it in the non-pixel world. I hated these sections with a passion. Not only were they not fun, they felt absolutely pointless.
Rad Rodgers seems to be the start of a series, as its “World One” is all there is. You can go back and play the levels to max out collectibles, but I would often find the majority of them (if not all) while just looking for the four exit chunks in each level. Still, there is quite a bit of content to be played, and whether not any additional worlds will release is yet to be seen.
As a game that feeds on nostalgia, Rad Rodgers accomplishes its goal. And while its humor may be a little raunchy (and cringey) it does represent the era that birthed it. While slightly stiff controls keep it from being great, it still has decent platforming and action that may be worth a look if you can see past the often cringe-worthy writing. Rad Rodgers is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows.
A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes