Developed By: Double Fine Productions
Published By: BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment
Release Date: 08.20.2019
Double Fine is one of those developers that makes your ears perk up when you hear they are attached to a project, and RAD is another one of those such projects. An action-roguelite with beat ‘em up qualities, RAD continues the legacy of Double Fine’s quirky side projects outside of it’s main IP. Spewing 80’s love all over the floor, and probably literally spewing based on the radiation, you will make multiple runs into the Fallow where you will be attempting to get the power turned back on for your post-apocalyptic refuge of moody teenagers. Comedy throughout all the darkness is a tool Double Fine has perfected and this game utilizes that to a fault. If you want a punk rock Bastion with mutations for loot than you have found the game for you.
Alternate history has allowed for our world to go through not one, but two nuclear disasters, and with that you have a surviving group that really has been beaten down and pounded to a pulp. The leader of your collective has tasked someone to gain magical powers of radical absorption that will be utilized to survive the wilderness, and gain power that will help conquer it. You volunteer for this mission and thus the punk shaman imbued you with these powers so that you can begin your journey to save the town’s electricity and get things up and running again once more.
Thus, begins the repeated attempts at delving into the Fallow, which is the irradiated wilderness area that you are being sent to change. Beyond beating up enemy creatures you will find friendly shopkeepers and quest givers along the way to allow for some purchased upgrades and some spice to be added to the basic gameplay loop of pounding out baddies with your bat of justice. This loop is where you find your roguelite qualities and it is with that that you will find your replay value and your progression system. The game is randomly generated, and with that each playthrough will give you a totally different level to run through. With that you have some good runs and some bad runs as the setup for each run can totally vary the time you have with the run. Also, with a lack of content outside of the single player run system you will not find much to do besides this mode. A daily challenge is offered for players to attempt on a leaderboard, but you are basically going to make repeated attempts at the main game.
Along with these roguelite qualities you find RNG in your mutations. I believe it is somewhat based on the creatures you are defeating along the way, as I killed a ton of bat creatures and earned a vampire ability that allowed me to randomly regain health, but at times it was hard to tell if it wasn’t just purely at random. The system reminded me a lot of the one in The Binding of Isaac in which the pill or item you get can 100% influence whether or not you will have a deep run or a quick turnaround back to the start. You can garner three attack mutations that are placed on your various controller buttons, such as a spike ability that shoots out pointies in 4 directions, but you also have a ton of passive abilities that stack up when obtained that allow for various things to be upgraded, like immunity to certain types of damage. These mutations add a ton of fun to the game, and with the quirky comedy as is customary in Double Fine titles you will find lots of little details that make all of these upgrades such an enjoyable time. From people commenting on your mutations to the changes in your characters look the mutations are what really make this game shine.
Currency is found in the form of either cassette tapes or floppy disks, as are the official mascots of 80’s technology. Cassettes are used to purchase items from the shops around the wilderness and the floppy disks are used to unlock chests you will randomly find. The currency is actually semi-difficult to obtain, as it is a random drop from killing minions and the drop doesn’t occur a generous amount, so you will need to make some serious progress and definitely get better at the game before you can get enough of the currency for it to matter as the shops are also quite expensive to purchase from. Luckily, as you continue you can set aside some of this currency so that you don’t have to start over from scratch each and every time, and you can also do this with improved bats that you find along the way to make each run into the Fallow easier to progress through.
Dungeons must be pushed through to gain progression and with that you are unlocking skull pillars on the map in order to get a massive gate open that allows you to move on to the next area. These dungeons have boss fight areas at the conclusion of them that really pump up the anxiety and difficulty. The boss fight areas remind me of what you encounter in Moonlighter or Enter the Gungeon with a larger area that has you take on larger enemies, however it is less like those games in that it tends to be several units you are fighting rather than one amped up boss.
The art design in this game is drenched in punk rock vibes and 80’s culture. From top to bottom this game is a love letter to that era and it comes out in the smallest of details to the most obvious of callbacks. Double Fine is the master of style and you can find that throughout this game with how they have it designed, written, and colored. The soundtrack pumps as you could imagine the developer of Brutal Legend would have it, and you shouldn’t be disappointed as long as rock ‘n’ roll is your thing. Which it should be. The game oozes style; pure and simple.
The only major negative to this title outside of minors grovels is the performance on the Switch port. In handheld mode the game gets pretty rough at times and if you choose to play this one on the platform, I would recommend trying to mainly play docked as it is much better there. However, you still have a lot of graininess to this version, which is common on multi-platform releases on the Switch, and the load times are abhorrent. You really have an uncomfortable wait between levels and runs.
RAD is a game that lets you sink into an experience that only comes along once in a great while. The game has performance issues on the Switch, and there are some minor issues with progression based on RNG, which is common for some roguelite/roguelike titles, but beyond that you have a game that takes on an aesthetic that is hitting the nostalgic era and nails it. The sounds and scenes are top notch and are something I thoroughly enjoyed playing through. The gameplay is fairly basic earl game, but once you grab a good number of mutations the strategy element that is presented, and the variations in combat you have to master make for a title that has a ton of replay value regardless of it having a lack of differentiation in what you are doing in the game. Definitely recommended for all the Double Fine fans out there, as well as anyone who likes their roguelikes. Good show, folks!
Buy Now – $19.99
*The Switch Effect was provided a review code for this game*