Rose-tinted nostalgia can be a hell of a thing. It seems that the ability to look back at past decades with misty-eyed enthusiasm is one which my generation (or at least the one that grew up with games in the 90s) loves to take advantage of. The amount of arguments I’ve had with friends over the fact that “no, Goldeneye is not still the best shooter ever” are innumerable. Still, the paucity of proper platformers in the 90s style - like Jazz Jackrabbit, Earthworm Jim and Conkers Bad Fur Day - has lead developers Interceptor Entertainment to create Rad Rodgers: World One.
Rodrigo Rodriguez, or “Rad Rodgers” is a kid in the 90s who just wants to play his games console, which he lovingly refers to as “Dusty”. Then his mum, being so awful like all parents, tells him to go to bed. In the middle of the night a strange glitch on his TV sucks Rad into the gameworld. There he discovers the animated avatar of his console, complete with Danny DeVito-esque voice and smatterings of a five o'clock shadow. With Dusty on his back and a gun in his hand, Rad sets out to find out what’s corrupting the game world.
Gameplay is fairly simple - you have to run around a level completing small puzzles, jumping across hazards and defeating enemies in order to collect four ancient exit pieces that will allow you to move on to the next level. On top of the exit pieces you can also collect oversized gems that give Rad a 1UP, smaller purple power-ups that fall from dead enemies that charge your character’s special attacks and secret collectibles scattered throughout each stage. Rad has three life hearts that will be sapped by touching enemies, falling into hazards or being hit by projectiles. Three always seemed more than enough, though, and I only died once or twice throughout my entire playthrough.
One of the most striking things about Rad Rodgers: World One is its graphics and art direction. The game truly looks like a 2D platformer from back in the day beefed up with all the graphical power of a modern system. In short, it’s beautiful.The corrupted jungle stages are lush, full of life and packed with extras like enterable buildings and interactive backgrounds. Enemies will rush from all directions and cause some glorious chaos as you try to fight them off. The game oozes a sense of style that really manages to capture the feeling of free-flowing movement through an interesting and attractive world. It also comes with a host of graphical options - including AA, filtering, vertical sync and ambient occlusion - more than you’d expect for a title of Rad Rodgers’ size and scope.
Sound wise, the game is equipped with a robust soundtrack of 90s-inspired stage tracks and some praiseworthy voice acting, especially from Dusty, who does the majority of the voice work. Each level has its own specific track and it really helps to set a tone for your exploration. The writing is also fairly chuckle-worthy, though it does suffer from an over-reliance on swears and toilet humour (which, in a nice twist, can be turned off if kids are playing). Expect references and head-nods to various aspects of 90s gaming, including lazy developers, soundtracks, videogame violence and more.
Rad Rodgers attempts to add some variety into the platforming experience by including something called the Pixel Zone which only Dusty can access. At certain points in a level a glitch will appear, requiring the console to fly through a form of time-space divide to solve a puzzle. None of them are particularly hard, though, and all it does it break up the flow of the level, especially when the player is on a roll.
Aside from the final boss (more on that later) the game only features four enemies. That’s not four enemy types, just four models. You’ll see them over and over again and none of them really represent much of a challenge. It’s hard to tell whether they really acknowledge your existence at all, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were programmed to run around the levels and damage Rad if the player is stupid enough to run into them. Despite its status as a platformer there really aren’t that many hazards to avoid, either. It’s perfectly possible to fly through this game using the default weapon in about four to five hours with minimal powerup usage.
That low lifetime is also something that the game has problems with. There’s a reason it’s called World One: more are planned down the line. The game is only a series of six stages with a boss level at the end. Each level can be done in about 15-20 minutes if you really put effort into finding all the collectibles. I’m unsure what the strategy is from Interceptor - whether they will create three or four worlds, of which the price adds up to full retail, but paying £9 for one world might seem steep to some.
A surprise waits at the end of the game, too, as Rad Rodgers decides that letting you mow down hordes of inept enemies was good practice for a boss battle that ramps up the difficulty exponentially. It’s split into multiple tough stages where the player will have to use platforming skills (and the dreaded Pixel Verse) to progress. It’s a welcome challenge but one that most players will be surprised by.
Overall, Rad Rodgers: World One is a love note to platformers of old and does a good job of dragging the format into the 21st century. A gorgeous, funny and well-thought out concept falls down when it comes to the meat and bones of combat, enemy AI and gameplay flow. Similarly, some may feel cheated that the game contains scant few levels, despite how fleshed-out they may be. There is definitely some potential here though, and hopefully the series will go from strength to strength with World Two, whenever that may release.
Rad Rodgers: World One (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
A gorgeous, funny and well-thought out concept falls down when it comes to the meat and bones of combat, enemy AI and gameplay flow. Similarly, some may feel cheated that the game contains scant few levels, despite how fleshed-out they may be.