Tuesday 24 September 2019

RAD ★★★☆☆

RAD is a roguelike brawler from Double Fine, best known for Psychonaut and Brutal Legend. Their previous games have already had a quite humorous element to them and RAD is no different, offering a comedic take on the roguelike genre. The game is set in the apocalypse after the apocalypse (for when one apocalypse isn't enough) and you are tasked with delving into the wasteland to find the items that may save civilisation.

How you do this is by following a formula that is tried and tested in the roguelike genre but with a few twists. As you play you will be going down through worlds (floors) that are randomly generated and have a boss at the end, which most likely sounds familiar if you have played games such as The Binding of Isaac and Moonlighter over the past few years.

The twist in RAD which makes it unique to other roguelikes is that the player character constantly mutates throughout any given run while exploring and killing enemies. You may start off every run by killing enemies with your trusty baseball bat, but within a few minutes you will mutate and from there, so many options are available to you, from growing a snakehead that can shoot acid to wings that enable you to fly around the maps.

The thing about the mutations is that they are completely random, making it a bit of a double-edged sword – you could end up with something incredible that helps get you through to the end, or you could get a passive or active effect that doesn’t coordinate well with your playstyle, ruining your run in a seemingly unfair way (especially if it happens later on in the game once you’ve made so much progress).

No matter what happens, it is inevitable that you will die a lot, be it to one of the many difficult bosses or the waves of little enemies you will fight. But this to be expected, so all you can do is pick up another character and try again. This shouldn’t come as any surprise to fans of the genre, as it’s this repetitive challenge that is so frustrating yet motivating at the same time. Like many roguelikes it has that real addictive quality of “just one more run”, so even if you’re about to throw your controller at the screen you’ll still find yourself on another playthrough five minutes later.

So far, so good. The main downside is the art direction – something which I’ll admit comes as quite a surprise. There is so much going on at times, and the colour palettes are a neon mess. Sometimes I found myself getting lost, confused as to where I was on the map due to all of the distracting imagery.  At times it resembled a canvas, covered with every colour on offer, which really pulled me out of the experience. Bright colours are not always bad as Nuclear Throne demonstrated, but the key difference was that it used colour and visuals to indicate where you were.

Secondly, the controls never really clicked with me. The dodge roll and attacking animations felt stiff and locked-in, meaning it was quite difficult to get out of the way of attacks effectively. It just hindered my overall enjoyment of the game.

In a world where there seems to be a new roguelike every week coming out (Undermine, and Dicey Dungeons have released in the last few weeks alone), it takes a special something to elevate a game to pull itself out of the crowd and be unique. RAD isn't a bad game per sé, but it never really gets better than “good”. It’s certainly worth your time, and you will get many hours of entertainment out of it… Just don't expect anything ground-breaking.

Hannah Read

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