Hey, here’s something fun we can do. Let’s flip the format backwards and jump to the end right at the start! Rad Rodgers: World One is great, and you should totally pick it up! I’m not even kidding. I loved the hell out of this game. I hoped it would be good when I saw the first teasers and trailers, but hot damn, I never thought it could be this good. Interceptor Entertainment totally nailed the style, the feel and the fun of classic action adventure platformers and that deserves a round of applause. As much as I could totally leave it at that, with this being probably the shortest review in history, I’ve got a lot to say, so let’s continue.
If you’ve read my Commander Keen retrospective review over in the Pile of Shame section, you’ll know I’ve got a particular fondness for the action platformer genre. After nearly twenty-five years, my hopes for a new kind of game like the ones I love were dwindling rapidly. I had pretty much given up hope. But then along came this little developer from Denmark with only a few game credits to their name who blew everyone away with their Kickstarter. Rad Rodgers seemed to be the impossible dream. Many other companies in the past had attempted and failed to resurrect the action adventure platformer genre. Maybe they tried to do too many things. Maybe they got the feel muddled and lost what kind of game they were aiming for when they started. I don’t know. All I do know is Rad Rodgers suffers from none of that.
From the narrative presented in comic book panels to an opening cutscene that joyfully breaks the fourth wall, I knew this game was shaping up to be something special. I found myself smiling before I’d even pressed a button. Then I pressed a button and wow. I can barely even describe what I was seeing. I mean just look at these screenshots. There is so much going on in this game that I would occasionally stop running and gunning and just take in the scenery. It doesn’t need to be there, but it is. Each level has such a depth of field to them that even though I’m running around on a fixed plane, I feel like I could wander off into the background at any time. The developer even takes advantage of this, with cleverly placed huts or caves you can enter which are almost indistinguishable from the background, as well as smooth camera zooms in and out to reveal or show off parts of the level.
Talking about parts of the levels, I can barely remember the last game I played that felt like its levels made sense. Take for example your average Mario game. Nintendo gets around that problem by setting entire worlds in a particular theme. The first world is almost always grassy, while the second is often desert and so on. Each of those worlds can have up to six or seven levels in them, sometimes even more. More than enough to spread out ideas and make you feel comfortable. Rad Rodgers does not have this luxury, and yet, it’s levels are singular and functional all at the same time. “Rumble In The Jungle,” your intro to the game, effortlessly transitions from grassy plains to underground caves and into the tree tops before it reaches the end, and none of them feel forced. They all serve your progression through the level. As you continue through the game, you’ll find that this continues into each new environment, with new things being introduced progressively and then built upon to increase the challenge and enhance the experience.
Speaking of the experience, Rad Rodgers seems to have been designed to please a wide variety of people, which is usually a pretty hard thing to do. With a story that can be summed up by needing to talk to a tree, which is so satisfying in its simplicity, World One lets you fill in the rest of the experience yourself. It allows casual players to pick it up to enjoy a nice slow romp just as much as speedrunners are probably already practising to find the fastest tricks. Advanced players can crank up the difficulty to duke it out while completionists will take their time scouring the levels for their many secrets. There are a lot of secrets, too, with a variety of references to other games from the genre or the era, including some happy nods to my old buddy Commander Keen. Even the Dopefish, everyone’s favourite aquatic moron, can add another game to his appearance list.
Let’s talk about the real stars of the show, though. Our young hero in the making Rad Rodgers and Dusty, his sentient talking retro console, are everything they were sold up to be. Throwing quips at each other during actions or commenting on treasures and particularly messy kills, both Rad and Dusty are perfectly voiced. The role of the wide-eyed young kid is brilliantly played by Hunter Pratt while Jon St. John, the master behind the king himself, Duke Nukem, as well as many others, lends his voice to Rad’s old backpack bound buddy. On top of those two, the music is just plain awesome. A fantastic synth blending of ’80s and ’90s mixed with retro stylings. The music so perfectly sets the feel for the levels that it becomes a star all on its own. I always found myself listening just a little closer when the beat dropped or when the two leads spoke up.
The cool thing is, what they have to say about what they see in the game or the various retro callbacks that they mention are only the beginning. The game itself adds so much more for you to get your brain all fired up over. Even though the flame weapon fires actual phoenixes and the ridiculously powerful laser cannon is like a purple blast from the Death Star, my absolute favourite is the grenade launcher. It fires out your everyday basic little bouncing bomb, but the charm is in the resulting boom. Each one comes complete with a wordsplosion, almost as if they borrowed the “biff” and “kapow” animations from Adam West’s Batman. The fun part is Rad Rodgers didn’t just settle for those. They inserted memes, buzz words, movie and pop culture references, animal sounds or just straight up made up words into their explosions. I found I would be hunting for the grenade power-ups, even swapping to them from a better upgrade just to see what funny message would show up when I fired.
There are so many things that Interceptor took a shot at and did such a good job at integrating into their game. One of the things I was initially a bit sceptical about was the sections involving the Pixelverse, the underlying code areas that Dusty jumps into to fix or alter parts of the main level, but they ended up being one of my favourite parts. Hell, you even get to see Dusty’s open console flap, which for reasons I don’t know but love, reveals his butt cheeks. I don’t remember butt cheeks inside the cartridge slot on my NES, which Dusty very much resembles, but I want some to be there now! These sections are built up to a point where they even impact the final boss battle of World One in a very creative way, throwing in yet another new thing for you to adapt to at the very end of the game.
Now while I could just keep going on and on about how this game is great, you’re probably all wondering if there is anything bad about it. There are things wrong with Rad Rodgers: World One. BUT! That statement comes with a huge but! There are things wrong, but Interceptor Entertainment has been very receptive to player feedback and extremely quick at rolling out updates. Even simple little things like a jump being too hard, enemies AI being a little dense, world elements not connecting right, or any number of other things. During the pre-release period, when I did most of my review, I submitted quite a few of these feedback forms myself through the simple built-in system. I think some of the patch notes even directly mention things I brought up in one of my messages which was incredibly satisfying to see so soon after I posted them.
So while I could list more things that are wrong with Rad Rodgers, by the time you get around to playing it, they will probably all have been patched or tweaked or changed to the point that mentioning them is useless. That’s what kept me coming back to this review and editing it again and again because often the various things I wrote about were now no longer an issue. Rad went full release on the first of December, 2016, but the game I played in beta, on release and the game I’m playing now are all radically different than each other. That is yet another reason the developer should get a round of applause. I can’t tell you how many games have come out from inattentive creators, with forums full of people offering suggestions or begging for help. Thankfully Rad has a very dedicated and swift team keeping it up to date and working on the next part.
That brings me to my last point. The next part. Rad Rodgers: World One is a short game. Compared to other games, such as Super Mario World or I dunno, Rayman: Origins, Rad Rodgers is maddeningly short. Let’s grab that big old BUT again, as that is explained away in the very title of the game. World One is just the beginning. I look at this game as just a proof of concept or a prototype. A delightful treat of things to come. One of the Kickstarter stretch goals, which while Interceptor raised a bunch of money, they didn’t reach this one, World Two was (or is) going to be an ice world. I for one am looking forward to World Two, World Three or as many worlds as the developer can throw at me.
One day, I’m sure that they’ll all get combined into one complete Rad Rodgers package, and you’ll be able to pick them up for some combo price. I think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you wait to play this game in it’s finished form only to save some money, though. Developers like Interceptor Entertainment should be encouraged and rewarded for their efforts as they go, not made to wait until the end to know how good the work is that they’ve been doing. It’s so hard in today’s brutally competitive video games industry to make a name for yourself, but these guys are definitely on the right track!
If you or someone you know is a survivor of the early years of PC gaming, please do yourself a favour, find this game and grab a copy today. Interceptor Entertainment has done what very few other developers have managed to do and recapture a lost genre, while also blending it with the best that modern gaming has to offer. Beautiful to look at, delightful to listen to and best of all a joy to play, Rad Rodgers: World One is an incredible first taste of greater things to come!