RAD Review: A Loveable Monster

A copy of the game was provided by Double Fine. The review was done on a Playstation 4

A copy of the game was provided by Double Fine. The review was done on a Playstation 4

RAD is a game that leaves the player wanting more. I’ll be more specific, it leaves a player wanting more time to play the game, more health, more abilities , and more chances. In other words, RAD knows how to get people sucked in and hooked to the gameplay. This game is a middle ground for casual and hardcore players that can be widely entertaining and sometimes just at heartbreaking.

Story

After the apocalypse things were crazy, then after the second apocalypse, things got weird. This is basically it and there isn’t a vast amount of character-driven conversation or deeper storyline. This game is heavily focused on the gameplay, getting the player into the map and having them explore and fight enemies.

Gameplay

RAD is really set up into three different gameplay ideas: skilled combat, mutations and permanent death.

The combat system in the game feels great. Movement is well-paced, the dodge and mutations feel very smooth and function with no problems at all. Some of the enemy types seem a little too aggressive or strong for a character's abilities and health. The fact that they all telegraph their attacks very well shows the polish and good understanding of how simple and effective combat should work. At first, the game seems very easy, and then after 15 minutes, it seems very difficult because of the scarcity of resources and powers. But after a few hours of play, players will get the knack for battling and dealing with all sorts of enemy types and utilizing their various abilities and mutations. It is a smooth and uphill battle throughout the entire game, but it is mostly consistently fair and fun.

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Whenever your character levels up, finds a special mutation spot or defeats a boss, your character will upgrade and receive some form of mutation. These mutations will vary from passive abilities that protect you from electrical damage to abilities that let you throw your arm like a boomerang and a huge variety of other things. Every run through in the game that I’ve done has given my characters a lot of new abilities and one or two familiar ones. I think the pool of random mutations is a good size, but I think the game could be a little bit more generous with the mutations in general. However, the passive mutations sometimes aren’t powerful enough to really help out a player before the boss battles, which do come relatively quickly. This means that some runs, your character could have only obtained two passive, resistance to fire and being able to see inside chests whereas another run could have given you a ranged attack and a deployable turret. There is a clear advantage for one of the runs, and it seems like power balance or being able to choose one of three mutations would have been fairer or players, especially when dealing with the pretty big and deadly bosses.

The last thing here is the idea of permanent death. You get a character, you start from scratch with no abilities, bonuses or extra stats. As you progress through the game you level up and gain new abilities and mutations. But when you die, you lose ALL those abilities, mutations, items and currencies (if they’re on you at the time of death). This brings a huge amount of intensity to the game because a player can get a lot of good mutations and have a good rhythm going, but then lose it all and have to start over again. This is great, it gives each encounter an intense fight to not lose a sliver of health and still claim all the experience possible by killing everything. However, not only does one’s character get rebooted, but the level progression is totally lost. So you have to play through the same levels over and over again to get anywhere. This seems like a really fun idea in practice, and it is quite enjoyable and more engaging than other games because of the constant worry of dying. But I do think that this would be a better extra mode with certain unlocks and special rewards in addition to a normal campaign with multiple lives or checkpoints or ways to retrieve all the stuff that you have earned.

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Visuals

The game looks great constantly. The textures, frame rate, monster design , and the mutations all look like a cohesive post-post-apocalyptic world. The randomly generated environments, dark dungeons hallways , and characters all look like great 80’s horror movies and games. Sometimes the simplest slick design and animation can become stale after a long time, but for the most part, it’s consistently entertaining.

Audio

The music in the game is spot on and extremely stylized, like the visuals. All the effects of your body mutating, the horrifying monsters and different environmental interactions all sound really crisp and disgusting at the same time. But for this type of game, the more gross and visceral, the better.

Replayability 

With the very fair combat and interesting mutations, players will feel that they can play “just one more time” and make it farther than they did the previous run. This makes the game more of an exciting experience once in a while than something to play for three weeks straight and never pick it up again.

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As of now, there is one other game mode called daily challenges. These challenges give different ways to play like no mutations or lower health. For those who are already well past the game’s normal mode and can frequently finish the game, these daily challenges will bring some extra life into RAD.

What It Could Have Done Better

My only major criticism would be that the permanent death feature can be a little too punishing for this kind of casual game, especially when there is no other way to get anything back and all progress is virtually wiped clean. It is an interesting game for that reason alone, but it can be a bit demotivating to play for two or three hours, gain some momentum and then have to start over again because of some bad luck or small mistake in a critical moment. Another small thing, the mutations are a lot of fun, but some of them are clearly far superior to others, and some balancing would be nice in their strength and a little bit more frequent drops would also be more appropriate to this casual of a title. Lastly, some co-op would be amazing in this title and bring up the replayability a lot, sitting down with a friend, going crazy intense into white-knuckle boss fights with everything on the line every moment would make RAD a vastly more worthwhile experience.

Verdict

It is easy to point out the flaws in this game, but this game is truly a testament to the diligence, classic game difficulty and odd innovations that we all miss from older games. The style, stakes, and superpowers make this game a blast to play overall, just watch your step.

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