It’s pretty obvious was Interceptor Entertainment was going for in Rad Rodgers: World One, a classic 2D Platformer with the humor style of Conker’s Bad Fur Day that shows tribute to the Apogee-era of games. This platformer aims to capture all the awesome vibes of being a 90’s kid that’s obsessed with video games, thrust in a dangerous world. Unfortunately, Rad Rodgers: World One doesn’t come close, creating a disjointed mess on almost all fronts.
Our story begins with Rad playing his games late one night, when his mother comes in to shut him down. Rad rudely talks back, pleading for more time, but eventually gives up and goes to bed. During the night, his game turns back on and refuses to turn off. A bright light from the TV sucks the boy into a strange world, where his console has become Dusty, a foul-mouthed backpack with arms. Together the two will try to uncover Rad’s mysterious calling to this world.
Now, it’s important to note that this game will be released in episodes, with World One being the first with a handful of levels and a boss. I finished these levels in about three hours, but we’ll get to what I think about episodic content later.
Playing the game actually doesn’t feel bad. Rad controls pretty smoothly with a decent jump arc, the ability to grab onto ledges, and being able to shoot in any direction with his various guns. Dusty can also use a powerful fist slam by using up a bit of his pixel gauge. Throughout the levels, Rad will be collecting gems, finding secrets, and picking up power-ups, typical fare for any 2D platformer.
Levels are sprawling, with the exit only available once four exit chunks are found. The levels are also arranged in a cohesive way, with the theme for this world being forests. There is some interesting background and foreground play going on to convey this, layering brambles and roots to create a pretty cool effect. Forest dwellers are also hidden in little houses throughout each level, where they’ll usually spout some “funny” dialogue and give the player an item. Now, all of these levels do feel boring and empty, even if the visuals have some interesting components. This is mostly because of the enemies used.
The enemies in this first level pack are some of the lamest I’ve seen in years. Basically, these monsters are corrupted by the evil tree that Rad ends up confronting as the boss. There are four variants to battle: smaller runners, stationary wizards, large leaping beasts, and large beasts that are stationary and throw spears. The problem is, most of these enemies are damage sponges, making it hard to know when an enemy is defeated as its not conveyed to the player in a coherent way. Even in easy mode, where enemies are slower and take less damage to kill doesn’t fix matters.
Not only that, but the larger enemies that are supposed to be the most threatening can easily be exploited by putting the edge of the screen on them. This locks them in place, jumping straight up and down and are not threatening to the player, but are now wasting their time.
When the player isn’t hopping and blasting, they’ll be fixing the world by sending Dusty into the pixelverse through rifts. These rifts pixelate the screen, often blurring what the player can see and making things harder unnecessarily. These sections of the game are like those carnival games that have people fishing the metal hook on the puzzle to avoid touching the sides. Dusty can easily get stuck on obstacles, grinding away his health. All of these segments just feel like big wastes of time, especially when restarting them leaves the player with less health for Dusty. These sections also show just how limited the voice lines are, grating on the nerves. Add in buggy segments with the poor collision just makes for a bad time.
Rad Rodgers, in its current state, is full of bugs like this. The framerate is terrible, collisions are a mess, and swinging on ropes is the most awkward thing I’ve seen in platforming. Sadly, the premise is solid, which makes all of this messy game design even more painful. Thankfully though, a lot of the problems with Rad Rodgers can be fixed over time with enough tweaking.
Change how the damage is scaled, make enemy placement more meaningful instead of obstructive, alter the visual filters to be more smooth, and we could have a fun platformer here. As of now though, the whole game just feels wrong and goes against all of the lessons learned in platforming history.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in this world’s boss fight. Players will have to battle the massive tree, whose roots have corrupted this world and its people. The fight starts fine, a big health bar appears and its easy to see that the player must shoot the tree’s hands when he smacks the ground. Rad will also have to take out spear throwing beasts on either side, while two wizards spawn below. It’s a lot to handle in such a small space, but it does become manageable.
Until the game slaps the player in the face by reversing the controls and flipping the screen for no reason at all. This is supposed to be the final resort of the boss, but all it does is take everything the player has learned throughout the world and throws it in the trash for a devious ploy to take lives. There is no reason for this boss to do this mechanically.
I’ve played a ton of games throughout the years, but this single moment was incredibly insulting, a way to pad out the game as a difficult challenge. I had hoped that this wouldn’t be the case in easy mode, so I played through the entire game again just to see. The only thing that changed is that the four respawning enemies took a couple less shots to die, otherwise the battle felt identical. Even the one weapon and extra heart you get on either side is a waste cause they don’t respawn like everything else does. I’ll gladly say I didn’t finish this first world because of this boss, due to the fact that the fight is unfair to the player in the worst way.
Which leads me to address the issue with this series coming out in episodes. Ask any development team that’s been successful with episodic content and they’ll tell you that the first piece is the most crucial. This first episode is what players will judge the game on, so making that first outing extra special and polished is a must. This is why Rad Rodgers: World One is so painful; this is supposed to be a full release, leaving the realm of Early Access. Patches could fix a lot of the gripes I’ve had about the game, but the overall execution of the project has been dashed against the wall.
Having this game come out in segments doesn’t bode well. A lot of these problems could’ve been smoothed over if the whole game was available, but no, now those who actually managed to finish it will have to wait. Episodic content has never been my favorite, but it has worked wonders for things like interactive narratives and even managed to work pretty well in the new Hitman. Id Software’s legacy was kind of built on releasing level packs and giving away the first set for free. It just doesn’t work for what Rad Rodgers has laid out.
I’ve seen the backers’ comments of this game, who spent their money putting their faith in the project on Kickstarter where it raised over $80K. Many of these backers had similar complaints. Most of the dialogue misses the mark as adult-themed comedy, often resulting in a subconscious cringe. Controls are fairly solid, but the level design and enemy placement does nothing for it. They were trying to catch the attitude of a 90s kid, but only succeeded in showing a sniveling brat and his creepy older friend who needs to lay off the cigarettes.
All in all, anyone wanting to know how not to make a platformer should play Rad Rodgers. It’s a surprisingly good example of all the wrong ways to go about it. Anyone else should probably avoid this title.
Hopefully, Interceptor Entertainment can continue receiving honest feedback like this review and use it to make a better game in the end. There’s a lot in Rad Rodgers that could turn into a solid game, but what’s been presented just doesn’t work. I’ll keep an eye at least on subsequent episodes and patches in hopes that they don’t see the “positive” reviews on Steam and keep going with what they’re doing now.
Find Rad Rodgers: World One on Steam for $11.99 USD.