RAD is a new roguelike game with the 80’s aesthetic dialled all the way up. Developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Bandai Namco, RAD is a stylish and challenging experience that does a fair amount right, but also stumbles here and there.
As the game starts, you are given some insight about what’s going on. The world is hit with a nuclear apocalypse, but humanity eventually rebuilds where they can and try to go on with their lives. However, a second apocalypse happens and renders most of the world uninhabitable. There’s a little safe haven that houses your community and things seem to be a little bearable, but a way to fix things could exist. Teenagers from the community are required to head into the Fallow, which is the wasteland outside the community, to find the means to rebuild yet again and ensure that humanity stands a greater chance at survival. The kicker? The radiation can and will cause your character to mutate and it doesn’t matter how mutated you become in order for you to complete your mission. It’s a decent enough plot to serve as motivation for you to head out into the wasteland and take on the mutants that inhabit it.
RAD plays pretty well and can be quite addictive. After selecting your character, you’re sent into the Fallow armed with nothing but your baseball bat. However, it isn’t long before you’ve clubbed enough mutants to become mutated yourself. The game is also almost completely procedurally generated, meaning that no two runs will be the same; the map, hazards and enemies all change with each new run. This rings true for the mutations as well. One run could see your arm mutate so that you can throw it like a boomerang and another may have you growing massive wings, which enable to you jump much higher and glide. These can actually determine just how well your run can go. It’s really great to luck into a mutation that complements your style of playing and helps you stay alive for longer. Getting a mutation that makes you sprout wings is great and all for exploration, but it doesn’t seem functional in a combat scenario. This is something I learned very quickly on my second run when facing a trio of alpha mutants with nothing but my bat. Engaging in combat works, but it doesn’t feel snappy enough. The characters feel slow and while there is a button for dodging, it’s nigh impossible to pull off guerilla attacks; the mutants are just much faster than what you are.
RAD can be pretty hard, but it’s not the kind of difficulty that feels crushing. It’s enough to challenge you and deliver an intense experience. In fact, the game actually feels so much more rewarding because of it. Even if you come to the end of a long run, it’s hard to say no to starting up another one immediately.
The mutants that feature throughout the game are great though. Each one requires a different approach and are susceptible to certain attacks. Some of them require you to dodge projectile attacks while others need to be flanked because of their lunging attacks. It becomes quite a chaotic dance when there’s more than one enemy on screen, but it’s the good kind of dance.
RAD also features some passive mutations that can be found in a level or purchased from a shop. These passive mutations offer a host of different perks, from a faster movement speed to taking no damage from fire.
There’s a great sense of progression in RAD since you’re awarded with XP after the end of each run. Level up the progress bar and you’ll unlock items in the shop in addition to new bats with varying stats. Also, while RAD features permadeath, causing you to lose everything, you can still bank whatever cash you’ve earned after clearing an area. This enables future characters to have a significantly better chance at survival, so you’re always working towards something.
The random nature of the mutations can be a bit of a bummer sometimes as it would’ve been really cool to create different builds with the various mutations available. However, what would’ve been absolutely great for a game such as this is a co-op mode. Running through the wasteland with a friend, be it on a couch or online would’ve been so much fun. Just the thought of having differing mutations with the ability to create combos with them sounds amazing.
As mentioned before, RAD turns on the nostalgia with an overall 80’s theme. There’s an abundance of neon colours and synth tracks that really nails the aesthetic. Even the currency and keys fit within the theme since they’re cassette tapes and floppy disks, respectively. There are even Pac-Man arcade machines found in your community. You can’t play on them, but it adds to the look and feel that RAD is going for. The game tends to sport some long loading times though, even when you’re just starting the game or moving between the safe area and the Fallow.
RAD is a great roguelike experience. It combines challenging combat with a range of various mutations and an 80’s theme and makes for an addictive ride. It wouldn’t hurt if your character could move a little faster and the load times were a bit shorter, but you tend to forget about this once you’re enthralled by the action. RAD is a fantastic addition to the roguelike genre.