A cool ‘80s synth score and comedic narration makes for a fun soundtrack. Full character voice overs would have been nice, though.
Vibrant, chunky and colourful, RAD’s graphics are hampered only by some slightly ugly character models. That said, they don’t look out of place in an irradiated wasteland.
Challenging but enjoyable for the most part, RAD has plenty of bat-swinging, mutant fun to offer. The only downside is the repetition and spiking difficulty after you’ve beaten the first world.
Dozens of random mutations to discover, loads of monsters to bludgeon, boss battles, procedurally-generated dungeons, secrets and other stuff will keep you coming back. Daily Challenges are a neat touch too, but after a few hours, you may find your interest in RAD beginning to wane.
A list that rewards putting in the time and effort, there’s certainly a lot of grind in RAD, but you’re also encouraged to unearth the game’s secrets. Not bad.
August 19, 2019
You may not have seen an apocalypse quite as bright and neon-drenched as the one depicted in RAD. A top-down 3D roguelike action game imbued with Double Fine's typically weird and darkly humorous style, as well as a gameplay hook that proves rather compelling, RAD is quite possibly the most colourful rendition of Armageddon we've ever seen.
Playing as a teenager armed with a fancy baseball bat, RAD sees you venturing into the irradiated wasteland of the Fallow to club marauding mutants to death. So far, so straightforward – RAD is a fairly addictive little game, but one that might have limited appeal for some. A twist on the standard roguelike, instead of gaining weapons, gear, and XP, instead you'll transform into a nuclear abomination, 'gifted' with all manner of bizarre mutations.
At its core, RAD hinges on these helpful mutations, manifested while exploring the day-glo expanses of the Fallow. The longer you're exposed to puddles of toxic goo and toothsome, tentacled monsters, the more radiation you'll absorb, leading to a variety of random, often hideous physical modifications. From developing a venomous cobra head to sprouting wings for gliding around, the abilities granted to you by the radioactive nastiness gradually transform you into an increasingly adept, albeit abominable, killing machine.
Some mutations are more useful than others, and progression can consequently be more the luck of the draw. Like most roguelikes, progression is hard-fought, and some runs will make life harder by granting relatively rubbish mutations like one that leaves a trail of caustic gunk, damaging enemies in its wake, or another that weakens incoming projectiles. They're no match for the stretchy 'cobrah' head or the ability to hurl fireballs, though.
On top of the mutations earned by maxing out a radiation bar (levelling up, essentially), there are passive exo-mutations you can discover by interacting with large skull-shaped machines tucked away in underground dungeon zones. Get far enough without dying, and you'll soon become a force to be reckoned with, but by the time you've reached RAD's second stage, the difficulty spikes considerably. And as the game's levels are procedurally-generated, it's not like you can master the perfect playthrough.
You can, however, figure out the best way to deal with certain enemy types, putting your best mutations to good use. But when you're dealing with crowds of aggressive mutants, often the powers at your disposal and the little evasive roll your character has isn't quite enough. Health items are doled out in miserly quantities too, meaning you'll frequently feel like the odds really aren't skewed in your favour.
As is the way with roguelike adventures, progress is incremental, items you're able to buy using cassette tapes only going so far in offering aid. Besides, you can only carry one thing at a time, so it's not like you have a whole inventory of stuff to fall back on in a pinch. As well as picking up cassette tapes – which can also be banked in the game's hub area – floppy disks serve as keys to open chests containing valuable consumables, and there are plenty of secrets to discover that can also help or hinder in some way.
RAD has a lot of cool ideas and a unique style that set it apart from many other roguelike games, but the journey does grow a mite repetitive, the random nature of the game's mutations offering no guarantees as to how well-prepared you'll be for each attempt at reaching the end. RAD can be a tough old slog too, demanding perseverance to muddle through each of its worlds. Double Fine's game can occasionally be rewarding – your progress reflected back in the hub in things like upgrades for Shermie's shop or plants growing in Billy's garden - and dying is invariably your fault – there's nothing here that feels unfair or unbalanced.
And yet, it's hard to see RAD as being something you'd return to repeatedly. There is a compulsive aspect to struggling your way through each run and swinging your bat through the irradiated overworld and the futuristic dungeons beneath, but failure feels like a kick in the teeth, making another stab at doing essentially the same thing all over again seem increasingly unappealing. Daily Challenges add longevity in a compartmentalised separate mode, and as a bitesize one-shot thing with a leaderboard position up for grabs, these challenges prove slightly more palatable.
While RAD is unmistakably a Double Fine game, with its own brand of humour and weird art style, it's also a roguelike through and through, albeit one with baseball bat-wielding 1980s teens and fluorescent mutants. As such, it can be a fairly thankless, harsh experience, but fun mutations, and a sense of levity help elevate it something more inviting. Tricky but enjoyable in small doses, then, RAD is certainly solid, but not quite as rad as you might hope.