Rad Rodgers is a side-scrolling action platformer available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Rad Rodgers originated as a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign in which Slipgate Studios asked for a minimum of $50,000 to create a videogame that would welcome the return of 3D Realms’ origins from 90’s era Apogee platformers such as Duke Nukem I and II and the Commander Keen series. Can Slipgate Studios successfully resurrect the classic retro side-scrolling platformer with Rad Rodgers?
Rad Rodgers’ story is reminiscent in concept to a videogaming equivalent to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger action comedy film Last Action Hero as it revolves around young gamer Rad waking up after a marathon night of gaming to find that his retro console has turned itself on, producing a vortex that places Rad as the star of his own videogame with the retro console providing support in a buddy duo team-up scenario as they attempt to save the inhabitants of a jungle and return the Elder Tree as guardian of the land.
Rad Rodgers sees Rad and Dusty exploring 8 platforming levels culminating in an end world boss, alongside 3 pogo stick levels interspersed in between the 8 levels that tasks Rad to jump onto each almost out of reach platform on a pogo stick without touching any water or flames as water levels rise resulting in only having one chance to choose the next correct platform to leap onto and perfectly time the jump otherwise it is automatically the end of the level. However, the positive gameplay design means that if the player cannot complete a pogo stick level; it does not impede their progress as simply attempting a pogo stick level is enough to continue onto the next platforming level.
Rad is not the only controllable character as there are areas that are deliberately glitched in which Dusty has to enter the pixelverse in a mini-game that sees Dusty manoeuvring beyond enemies before smashing something into place; therefore essentially repairing the glitch in order to allow further progression through the level.
Hats are situated throughout levels as a collectible that allows the player to partially customise Rad’s costume by alternating between Rad’s hairstyle and 19 unlockable hats including an American Football helmet with a Green Bay Packers paint scheme, a Doomed Space Marine helmet, a 3D Realms themed hat, a Santa hat, an alien mask and much more besides. Before exiting a level; the player must find 4 quads of a circular key referred to as exit chunks. Gems are positioned through levels with an emphasis similar to that of Spyro the Dragon as collecting 100 gems earns an extra life for Rad. Meanwhile, lion trophies are a take on Crash Bandicoot’s crystals as some of them are so far out of reach; you will wonder how to obtain them yet they are required for 100% completion. Bonus unlockables include 20 pages worth of concept artworks such as character designs and level themes.
Rad is seemingly styled on the lead character from retro platformer Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, while Dusty is a rather humorous foul-mouthed videogame console, alongside some inhabitants that have remained normal which greet Rad and Dusty in varying ways from commending their bravery to save their world by offering a gem or using some colourful language to exclaim how long they have been trapped for. Enemy design is varied as enemies are gradually introduced such as inhabitants of the jungle which come in differing shapes and sizes that have been digitally corrupted, while flies will also attack Rad and Dusty with jellyfish enemies firing barbs in all directions and water is usually electrified as a deterrent from falling into it coupled with spiky red thorns, alongside dangerous looking red enemies that attempt to prevent Dusty from achieving his objective in the Pixelverse.
Environment design contains a fair few nods to classic retro platformers including the facial expressions of the trees with eyes that follow Rad and Dusty that are reminiscent to Superfrog, while checkpoint saving is represented by floppy disks, alongside Pixelverse which embraces Rad Rodgers’ retro origins. Meanwhile, a major gameplay design choice harking back to the days of retro platformers makes a pleasant return as levels have as many as 10 secret areas containing rewards that are scattered throughout which can usually be found by venturing as far in the opposite direction as possible.
Rad has a blaster to dispose of his enemies, although a wide variety of fire modes can be gathered within levels to essentially change Rad’s blaster into an entire arsenal of weaponry including rapid fire, bomb barrage, phoenix cannon, laser blade and much more besides. Rad Rodgers has updated firing mechanics in comparison to retro platformers resulting in free aiming instead of the eight-way directional firing that was seen as revolutionary during the era of classic retro platformers. Beyond Rad’s blaster; there are a variety of abilities courtesy of Dusty’s long, powerful arms including a slam move that can be used as an alternative attack on enemies or to break boxes which may contain gems, while Dusty also enables Rad to be able to climb vertical and horizontal poles or swing on ropes.
Photo mode is available from the pause menu which allows the player to observe the closer details of Rad and Dusty, enemies, jungle inhabitants and surrounding environments. Photo mode really is a great feature; allowing the camera to be positioned with freedom within the vicinity of Rad and Dusty whilst on their platforming action adventure including extensive customisation of images such as panning, camera height, zooming in or out, anywhere from a minor tilt to a full sideways, upward or downward facing tilt, field of view within the range of 50 to 120, depth of field focal region, focal bokeh size and focal distance, saturation, gamma, gain and contrast, alongside 9 variations of colour grading intensity including cross process, portaesque, proviaesque, velviaesque, fire, blue ravine, empty, snowy and rainy. What makes the photo mode work so well is that it provides players with the opportunity of producing customisable action shots in a fully immersive environment which works in perfect harmony with the PS4’s share feature and is original within the platformer genre.
As of the time that Rad Rodgers was released on home consoles; it is unclear if there will be a sequel. Despite featuring more than enough gameplay; Rad Rodgers is considered to be world one, while world two set in a world of ice with multiple new gameplay mechanics was actually a $200,000 stretch goal during the Kickstarter campaign. However, a second chapter set within the Rad Rodgers universe could still technically happen if the home console ports prove successful enough to raise the funds to develop what would essentially be a fully fledged sequel.
It is surprising to not see Rad Rodgers following in the footsteps of fellow retro side-scrolling platformers such as Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends and Superfrog HD to name but a few by receiving a Vita port, although remote play is at least a consolation. Rad Rodgers’ remote play performance is excellent as it retains the graphical qualities, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. The biggest remote play control optimisation is firing Rad’s blaster being re-mapped to the top right of the touch screen, although it would have been better if it had been mapped to R, but that does not detract from the remote play controls as the alternative to firing Rad’s blaster is already mapped to pressing square. Therefore, Rad Rodgers is very much playable during remote play to such a point that it is in fact one of the most comfortable and entertaining remote play experiences.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 or alternatively pressing square to fire Rad’s blaster; pressing L2 to use the aim lock; pressing O to perform Dusty’s slam; pressing triangle to use such as entering passages; pressing X to jump; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to move Rad when exploring a level or Dusty within the Pixelverse; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim Rad’s blaster; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad during the photo mode displays additional settings, while vibration occurs when Rad is being attacked by an enemy, when he falls into electrified water or red thorns and reflecting the recoil of Rad’s blaster particularly during rapid fire fire modes. There is no light bar support which could have provided an alternative HUD in relation to Rad’s health when exploring the jungle or Dusty’s health within the Pixelverse or alternatively to momentarily flash a light shade of green when collecting a gem, alongside other colours specifically related to finding secret areas and collectibles.
Graphically, Rad Rodgers excels in every aspect that a platformer should as Rad, Dusty, jungle inhabitants met along the way and their enemies have amazing character design and animations, while Rad’s blaster produces some stunning effects, alongside beautiful environments that are truly complimented by brilliant lighting and shadow effects in addition to retro stylised throwbacks such as a pixelated effect that shows when a glitch is nearby and the corresponding Pixelverse ventured into by Dusty.
Rad Rodgers’ presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, options menus, help menu, hats menu, bonus menu and various gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, while using the right analogue stick as an alternative to scrolling through the help menu and tapping the touch pad to move back to the previous menu. Menu backgrounds focus on Rad’s interactions and friendship with his retro console that he carries in his backpack as Dusty laughs at Rad’s posing and they fist pump each other in the middle of forestry with boxes in the immediate background labelled with a question mark and TNT that are a clear nod to Crash Bandicoot, alongside electricity and flames in the far distance that provides an inkling to the adventure Rad and Dusty are about to experience.
A talented voice-over duo comprising of Hunter Wayne Pratt voicing Rad Rodgers who has starred in numerous short films and indie films such as No Place in This World and Epiphany, while Dusty is voiced by Jon St. John who is most famous for his portrayal of videogame action hero Duke Nukem. Voice-overs enthusiastically provide hilarious dialogue such as Rad exclaiming to Dusty, “Woah! Rapid fire! How much ammo do you think I got?” only for Dusty to respond, “I thought you were a gamer? Just look at the pretty bar at the side of the gun”. Elsewhere, Dusty angrily shouts, “Lazy ass developers! They forgot to put a platform here. Come on, let’s try and fix it” before entering the Pixelverse, alongside Dusty proclaiming, “Nobodies going to put Dusty in the corner” referring to himself being a retro console instead of a modern day specification. Sound effects include Rad running, jumping, firing the various fire modes of his blaster, collecting gems, hats and lion trophies, enemies attacking Rad and reacting to being hit by Rad, alongside ambience such as rustling foliage, flowing water, cogs turning within machinery and more besides; complimented by instrumental rock music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced Rad and Dusty’s voice-overs, a variety of sound effects or ambience.
Rather surprisingly, Rad Rodgers does not feature a platinum trophy list, despite the game being available at retail and having 39 achievements on PC and Xbox One. The trophy list includes 9 trophies with 1 bronze trophy, 7 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. Easier trophies include the Man of Steel bronze trophy for completing a level without dying, while harder trophies include the majority of the trophy list’s focus on finding all secret areas and collecting every gem, hat and lion trophy, alongside the Hardboiled gold trophy for 100% completing jungle world on hard mode. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 20 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, normal and hard that in the style of Wolfenstein games actually makes fun of the player for choosing easy difficulty by placing a dummy in Rad’s mouth. The major differences are that easy difficulty provides unlimited lives with 100 gems fully restoring Rad’s health, starting with 4 heart containers, a heart pickup gives 2 hearts, enemies are 25% slower in movement and are 50% slower in their attack rate and weapon pickups give 200% ammo. However, normal and hard difficulty levels increase the difficulty to that of retro platformers as they both place far more importance on the amount of health within the 4 hearts as losing all of Rad’s health will reduce the quantity of his available lives, while collecting 100 gems will add one life, although heart pickups provide less health, enemies are significantly faster in movement and attack and a newly collected fire mode has less ammo.
There is no form of local or online multiplayer which is disappointing given the fact that a stretch goal that was not met would have introduced a local co-operative multiplayer mode and even a time attack mode. However, there are online leaderboards which specifically focus on the highest points scored from each player with rankings covering every level with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and the highest amount of points scored by each player, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with players that occupy the top 5 positions followed by looking at the points scored by the next group of 5 players and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard.
Rad Rodgers’ replayability originates from far more than retro nostalgia as it features 8 platforming levels, 3 pogo stick levels and an end world boss with standout level design in its own right accompanied by dozens of secrets, alongside numerous collectibles, unlockable concept art, fun hats, amusing dialogue, three difficulty levels and revamping local leaderboards with points scoring focused online leaderboards that will collectively have players returning for quite some time. However, Rad Rodgers does have one poor design choice as even after collecting 2 out of the 4 required exit chunks and reaching the following save checkpoint; when needing to quit the level it will unbelievably result in a loss of progress for that level, therefore forcing the player to start the level from the beginning when resuming gameplay.
- Title: Rad Rodgers
- Developer: Slipgate Studios/Co-produced by 3D Realms
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- System: PS4
- Format: PS4 Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1 (Online Leaderboards)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 4.56GB (Version 1.01)
- Storyline - 90%90%
- Gameplay - 86%86%
- Graphics & Sound - 90%90%
- Controls - 90%90%
- Difficulty - 88%88%
- Replayability - 86%86%
Overall, Rad Rodgers successfully heralds a return to 90’s pre-3D Realms Apogee era retro side-scrolling action platformers, while embracing the spirit of Amiga classic Ruff ‘n’ Tumble. Rad Rodgers is highly recommended to fans of side-scrolling platformers with or without action gameplay elements from past and present platforming eras.