90s platformers were great, until you go back and play half of them.
Rad Rodgers is one of those typical kids you find in passable platformers from ages ago, like Mick and Mack from Global Gladiators, or the one from Magic Pockets. If I’m not naming anything particularly memorable, well get this: that is the point that I am making. Rad Rodgers is not an interesting character. The most interesting thing about him is that he owns a games console, and he got sucked inside of it somehow. So, really, he just has an interesting console.
Naturally, inside his console, he meets an anthropomorphised manifestation of his actual console, which is a bit weird. He’s called Dusty, and he rides in Rad’s backpack like Banjo-Kazooie, punching stuff as they go. If I threw you three guesses at what hi-jinks they get up to, you’d have pretty good odds. Stop reading for a second and think about that, if you like.
Was collecting jewels and shooting at goblins on your list? Hey; well done. If you also guessed at traditional themed levels with swing ropes and power ups, bonus points for you. I don’t mean to be unkind here – Rad Rodgers is deliberately referencing tropes of older games – but it’s important to note that there are few surprises here beyond the game’s retrospective fixations.
It might be concerned with 90s era platforming, but Rad Rodgers does make the effort to modernise in a technical sense. This is a 2.5D platformer, if you will, with full 3D rendering of its environments and characters. Low resolution by design (one hopes), it retains the feel of its pixelated inspirations. It just feels a little flat, colourless and inanimate (the low frame rate doesn’t help).
Each level has a number of objectives to chase, which can be sought through multiple plays or all at once if you want. Killing every enemy, finding every secret area and collecting every jewel give some replay value for patient explorers. Just beware that the moment to moment play might test that patience. It pretty much has all the pieces here: collectibles, high scores, varied levels and the usual paraphernalia. It’s just missing the vital feel-good control that the best platformers need.
Nothing has any heft or dynamism; Rad lacks finessed momentum and swagger, while enemies just sort of stand around and drop dead when they’re done. Swing ropes should show off a character’s physicality but somehow feel even more rigid. Unforgivably there are moments of unfairness, where harm or death to Rad don’t feel at all the fault of the player. While that’s authentic to some older platformers, it’s a detail we can do without.
Most annoying of all though is Rad and his fellow cast. It doesn’t bode well from the start when you’re asked if you mind coarse language or not. As a rule I don’t, but when it’s an excuse for juvenile excuses for maturity I have to make an exception. Characters telling me they’ve just masturbated, or have put one of those jewels you’re holding up their butt…well, it’s just not funny, is it?
Rubbing salt into the wound are the regular voiced quips referencing Mario, or Sonic, or other platforming heroes that Rad Rodgers wants not only to idolise but stand among. It really doesn’t deserve such billing, especially when we’re spoiled for choice for platform games that took the best of those old games and made something better out of them. It’s not especially terrible, but sometimes mediocrity is the most damning assessment of all.
Rad Rodgers was provided to us by Xbox/THQ Nordic for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.