It’s time to take a trip back to the 90s once again for the retro inspired platformer Rad Rodgers: World One. The latest from Interceptor Entertainment comes to us after a successful Kickstarter campaign. If the name sounds familiar to retro fans out there, they are the studio behind the reboot of Rise of the Triad. While Rad Rodgers is a retro precision platformer, it makes use of the Unreal Engine 4 to marry both new and old together. As I’ve professed on several other occasions, I do rather enjoy the older style platformers. Having been playing them for a good 30+ years at this point, I can still find a lot of fun in them when done right.
In the game you take the role of Rad Rodgers, a 90s kid who plays too many video games. One night after arguing with his mother about it, Rad goes to sleep leaving on his game console. That night he gets sucked into the TV along with his trusty console named Dusty. Rad takes on the video game world of which he is now a part with his blaster and Dusty hanging on his back. While Rad takes center stage in the main game world, Dusty gets his turn in the Pixelverse where he attempts to repair glitches in the game world.
The gameplay is about what you would expect from the genre. There are gems to collect (100 will give you an extra life), secret areas to find and a few different weapons to use. In the first 5 levels there are 4 pieces of a seal that you have to collect to open the exit to progress. On the 7th level awaits a boss fight. Along the levels there are sections that require you to control Dusty in the Pixelverse. In the Pixelverse you guide Dusty toward whatever missing game object you need or to remove something that blocks your path. The gameplay also switches from platformer to more something more akin to obstacle avoidance. You only have so many pixels that drain as you bump into objects over time.
While the platforming is well built, once you reach the 3rd stage the levels tend to overstay their welcome. It’s not that they are too hard, it’s just they really go on too long. On levels 3-6 when I was about 3/4 of the way done, I was just ready for them to be over at that point. The same amount of content could have been delivered a little more enjoyably by cutting about 1/4 of those 4 levels and adding in 1 more level overall. That brings us to the Pixelverse.
The Pixelverse sections range from extremely short, 1 item close by, to a 6 item marathon on limited time in an obstacle and enemy filled maze. Dusty’s “health” is pixels that you can gather from defeating the AI roaming the levels. Bumping into walls and objects will drain those pixels. I was generally in a rush during those sections, but I believe time is also a factor there. While it is a pretty cool idea, these sections could use some work as they are all over the spectrum in terms of difficulty and time required.
There was one particular level where it really stood out in a bit of a negative way. At the very end of one of the longer levels was a portal to the Pixelverse, and while at most the other sections were 3 maybe 4 items, this one required 6. It also happened to have by far more obstacles and enemies than any other as well. Running out of pixels isn’t the end of the world, Rad loses some health and Dusty goes back down to one bar on his pixel meter. The issue here is that it occurs at the very end of the level.
Remember how I mentioned that you can build up pixels by killing enemies? Well, there is a finite number of them per level. So, if you do run out of pixels, you are facing an uphill battle as you will be stuck always entering with one health bar at that point and need to kill enemies quickly inside for any hope to get to your destination. Oh yeah, and it’s filled with more obstacles than any other Pixelverse section as well. I certainly don’t mind a challenge, and I did eventually get past it, but in that instance it seems as though the section could be designed a bit better.
There are a few different weapons in game, and apart from the base gun, each have limited ammo. The grenade launcher and beam weapon can be some fun to blast your enemies with, but there really isn’t much need. For the most part the enemies don’t seem overly concerned with your existence. Because of this, you can generally take as much time as needed to take care of them with the default weapon. Dusty also doubles as a weapon as well. His arms can splat enemies turning them into piles of meat flying through the air. While the splattering is fun, it’s not particularly useful. Each swing of his arms lowers his pixel meter. So depending on when you use it, you can find yourself in a Pixelverse section with minimal life. The second I realized he was losing pixels by punching/smashing was exactly the moment I stopped using this attack for the rest of the game. Other than some gory visuals, there was no real incentive to use this attack, especially if it would come back to haunt you later.
The controls are reasonably tight. I certainly never felt like I wasn’t in control of the characters in either portion of the game. There is a twin stick shooting element to the aiming. It’s mostly unnecessary, however, which is probably a good thing as trying to run, jump, aim and shoot at the same time is rather impossible, at least on an Xbox controller. I was tempted to try it out on the Steam controller, but not being totally familiar with the controller (it’s still in the box), I decided against it. Using the right stick to aim and trying to hit the A and B buttons is difficult, to say the least, but luckily you can still aim with the left stick as well. Couple in the fact that I never felt the need to aim without moving till the 2nd to last level, and it’s a bit of a non-issue. Although, when it comes to the end boss, I can see the need, and while I was mostly unsuccessful with a controller, I could see how switching to mouse and keyboard would be greatly beneficial for that one fight.
Let’s move along to the art. It is a rather gorgeous game, not something you would immediately suspect if you hear the words retro platformer. The cutscenes were similarly beautiful. They looked so good, in fact, that it ensured I didn’t skip any of them. Looking at the game, I’m not so sure I really see retro though. The immediate parallel I drew was to something more recent in that of the Trine series and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, with the similarly good looking foliage and some other aesthetics. Certainly not a bad thing as those were some beautiful games as well.
I know that there are a lot of folks crazy about video game music. I’m more concerned with it blending into the game world that has been created. Under that criteria there is an A+ for the music, as I honestly didn’t recall if there even was any. Believe it or not that is actually a compliment, as it didn’t stick out in an annoying fashion or stand out as overtly; listen to me instead of paying attention to the action. It’s actually quite hard to blend it all seamlessly into one another.
Developer: Interceptor Entertainment
Publisher: 3D Realms
Platforms: PC, PS4
Release Date: 1st December 2016