Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition is one of those games where looks can be a bit deceiving. At a glance, you might think this is just a standard, colorful 2D platformer. While it’s true the game is colorful and very platformy, Rad Rodgers is anything but standard. It’s loud, gross, sexual, foul-mouthed, and over-the-top. It’s the type of game that would have been big in the 90s, during the time when everything needed to be edgy and over-the-top to be cool. Rad Rodgers does a lot of things right, including its platforming, puzzles and the fact it’s a love letter to games like Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit. However, some things don’t make the transition very well to modern day, and Rad Rodgers falls flat. It’s still a fun experience to play on Nintendo Switch.
Rad Rodgers initially launched as a Kickstarter project a few years ago, and then early in 2018, THQ Nordic brought Rad Rodgers (originally known as Rad Rodgers: World One) to PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Now nearly a year later, Rad Rodgers: Radical Edition comes to the Nintendo Switch (and will be updated for other platforms). Rad Rodgers tells the story of a young boy, the titular Rad Rodgers, with a love for video games. After a long evening of gaming, he is forced to shut off his console and go to bed. Some time in the night, the console powers itself on and sucks Rad into the video game.
One of the things I really enjoy about Rad Rodgers is the simplicity of the game. With only the ability to jump, shoot, and melee, it’s refreshing that the gameplay is so simple. This really allows you time to learn each ability and when you can or can’t use them. Despite the fact that Rad can shoot unlimited ammo with his standard weapon, there are other ammo types that can be obtained to alter the functionality of his weapon, like rapid fire, explosive rounds, etc. I also enjoyed the breaks in each level where you get to play as Rad Rodgers’ partner, Rusty, who is able to travel to the Pixelverse. These moments are basically puzzle mini-games and are pretty much necessary in order to progress. These puzzle sections find the right blend of being just tough enough that you need to think you’re strategy through while not being so hard that they are frustrating. I also really enjoy the game’s soundtrack. The music especially feels like it’s been lifted directly from some of the best platformers of the 90s.
However, Rad Rodgers starts to falter very quickly. First off is the game’s random difficulty spikes. For the first half of the game, Rad Rodgers ends up being a fairly easy experience, but then things aren’t a breeze towards the second half of the game. Maybe in an earlier level you’d only lose a life from time to time in a stage; however, you’ll suddenly find yourself burning through all three of your lives later in the game. This can make things frustrating as losing your lives results in being put right back at the start of a stage to do it all again. This wouldn’t be bad if these last levels didn’t each take almost 30 minutes to run through. It’s very frustrating to find yourself put back at the beginning due to a sudden abundance of obstacles and enemies that’ll wipe your health in the blink of an eye.
Another thing that doesn’t work well in Rad Rodgers is its humor. I understand that humor is subjective, and some people may genuinely find the game humorous. I did not. Most of the jokes fell completely flat, and nearly every joke borders on Bubsy levels of painful. Take one example when you hear one of the friendlier jungle inhabitants tell Rad to “eat a buffet of dick.” Or one of the opening cutscenes where Rad is given a gun and proceeds to rub it and say, “Oh, yeah, this thing is HUGE! So tight.” It’s the sort of humor that borders on being cringeworthy. Don’t get me wrong, 90s me would have probably loved it and laughed at it. The humor just doesn’t seem to work and makes most of the conversations in the game uninteresting to listen to.
It’s also a real shame how poorly this game looks on Nintendo Switch. Rad Rodgers is by no means a technical showpiece game, nor is it a simplistic 2D platformer. That said, everything in the game looks very, very blurry. Regardless of what playstyle you choose, everything just seems blurred; from the world details to character animations, everything seems poorly detailed. Perhaps this was designed by choice by the developers to get the game on Switch, but I honestly don’t know why that would be the case. It’s really obvious the game doesn’t compare graphically to any other version out there. I should point out that the trailer for the Switch version of the game is a bit misleading. The game doesn’t look nearly as good when you actually play it on Switch versus how they say the game looks. Rad Rodgers also doesn’t run fantastic. There are plenty of instances, especially when you get near Rusty’s Pixelverse areas, where the frame rate drops suddenly. I’ve mentioned before in other reviews that I normally don’t focus on frame rate when reviewing a game unless there’s a noticeable problem. In Rad Rodgers, it’s a problem.
Developer: Slipgate Studios
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (also PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Release Date: 26th February 2019