How many people out there remember the old school platformers? I’m not talking about your Marios, Sonics or even your Bubsys – I’m talking about games such as Jazz Jackrabbit, Commander Keen and Ruff’n’Tumble. These are 90’s era platformers which were limited to computers, rather than consoles, so machines such as the Amiga and a 386/486 with DOS. We have seen a few of these games come back in recent years via services such as GOG as a 1:1 working version on modern hardware but we have also received an inspired remake which may have flew under a lot of peoples radar. Rad Rodgers is yet another Kickstarter born game, from Slipgate Studios and published by THQ Nordic, which hit PC back in 2016 and has just come out for modern consoles. It’s basically Ruff Rogers from Ruff’n’Tumble’ with some new mechanics and running on the U4 engine. So, let’s take a look and see if this game is worth picking up.
Let’s start off with a brief introduction to Slipgate Studios, as they are probably a name people aren’t too familiar with. They were formally known as Interceptor Entertainment and have worked on a number of early 90’s reboots and ports over the years. In 2010 they were originally commissioned to create Duke Duken 3D Reloaded – however, this project was cancelled due to the game looking better than Duke Nukem Forever and was seen as a threat against Forevers sales (according to Wiki). They were then picked up by Apogee Software and were given the go-ahead to reboot Rise of the Triad – another 90’s FPS classic. This game was created and released successfully in 2013 to very good critical reviews.
In 2014, Interceptor Entertainments part-owner company bought 3D Realms – a name anyone from the 90’s will be very familiar with. They went on to create Duke Nukem: Mass Destruction but were once again forced to back down due to Gearbox Software taking them to court; however, this time they were allowed to release the game but under a different name, Bombshell. Finally, in 2016 the company announced Rad Rodgers – a 2.5D action platformer running in U4 staring two main protagonists, one voiced by Jon St.John (the voice of Duke Nukem). It was originally on Kickstarter asking for $50k and it reached $81k. The last update we had was in early 2017 where the company was renamed to ‘Slipgate Studios’ and it was announced that THQ Nordic had acquired the Rad Rodgers IP.
So, the company hasn’t been around that long, but they do have a history of creating games based on old franchises with some being good, some okay and some lost forever. These guys know what they are doing and looking for in regards to rebooting a series and keeping it true to its source material. As soon as I heard Rad Rodgers was coming to consoles then, I was instantly excited and knew I had to try it out for myself – but, did it live up to the excitement I had for it?
Rad Rodgers stars the namesake who is a young videogamer who finds himself within his favourite video game due to his console turning itself on after a heavy night of gaming. After receiving a rather rude awakening, he finds he is accompanied by his sentinel console, Dusty, who is voiced by Jon St.John himself. It’s now up to Rad and Dusty to set out to fix the corruption that’s been spreading across the World One Jungle and in turn, restore the Elder Tree as the guardian of the land/level.
As you can see in the image further up, you have the choice of playing in Adult or child mode. I’ve only played in Adult Mode and it can get pretty vulgar. Some words are still censored for comedic effect but Dusty can get pretty imaginative with his phrases!
Throughout your adventure, there have been numerous new enhancements added over the original PC version – enhancements which will be delivered to all PC owners on the 21st via an update patch. Not only will you be travelling across 8 levels but you will also face against two new mini-bosses, encounter three new pogo-stick challenges and also play through two new levels. Basically, if you already own the game on PC, or know someone who does, give them a nudge after the 21st as the game will have a lot more content for them – free of charge.
One of the main stand-out features I found in Rad Rodgers was the writing – which is strange as old-school platformers didn’t really care about the writing, they dropped you into a level, gave you a gun and pointed you in the right direction – sometimes with literal arrows. Rad Rodgers, however, has some really funny moments, The use of Jon St.John as Dusty is perfect as he is always putting out one-liners and mocking you for everything you do. They even throw in references to other games, pop culture and the genre in general – such as making fun of the fact games like this usually make an annoying sound when you’re low on health, followed by Dusty doing a “beep beep beep” impression which reminded me a little of Pennywise (Tim Curry) from IT with his “beep beep Richie” line.
The game itself is a generic 2.5D platformer. They have tried to keep the formula true to the source material of the original games, yet also brought it into the 21st century with pretty graphics and particle effects. You initially start with a blaster weapon which has unlimited ammo but isn’t very powerful and over time you pick up various weapons. The ones you pick up have limited use but you can prolong their use by killing enemies and picking up refills. On top of the gun, you also have a strong melee attack (it’s really powerful but you have to be really close to use it) and you obviously have the ability to jump and climb. I mentioned at the beginning of the review that Rad Rodgers was like the spiritual remake of Ruff Rogers which is true in terms of the main protagonist with his look and abilities but the gameplay itself seems to have come from many places. The only issue with that is they appear to have taken aspects and merged them together but not really innovated and changed anything – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
What stood out for me, other than the humorous writing, was the levels themselves. Each one boasts a different style and soundtrack. However, nothing comes without its flaws. If you take your standard platformer, how long does it take to finish a level? maybe 2-3 mins at times, maybe a little more? Some of the levels in Rad Rogers can take 10-15 minutes to complete due to the complexity of them. Your main goal is it find four keystones and then seek out the exit in order to move on – you may also be required to find blue keys to open doors, go through the ‘Pixelverse’ in order to make objects (de)materialise, eliminate all enemies including mini-bosses and also seek out all the gems and hats if you are going for 100%. There is a lot to do on each level – factored in with the lmited health and powerups, they can sometimes take you a while if you don’t have any kind of guide with you.
Speaking of the Pixelverse, this is an area where “the devs were lazy and couldn’t be bothered to finish the game” – you jump in and take control of Dusty as you make your way past some simple enemies and obstacles as you seek out objects which either should or shouldn’t be in the real world. Once you find them, you interact with them and they will either vanish or appear for Rad so he can progress accordingly. Examples of this are removing rocks, moving items and placing platforms.
The collectables are what will prolong each level. There are over 18 hats to collect – these do nothing other than offer a visual change – and one secret item within each of the main missions. Not to mention the 150+ gems to collect in each level. The updated version of the game has also added online leaderboards which appear once you have finished a level and compares your score with the rest of the world. Some people really enjoy these online leaderboards but I don’t really look at them in non-competitive games such as this one as they just tend to point out how bad I am compared to others!
Graphically, I’m on the fence with the game. Yeah, the game is bright, colourful and very well done – technically. And it’s not pixel-art (nothing against pixel-art but it’s nice to see a game go with a smooth aesthetic instead). However, It’s not the best looking platformer you will see on the PS4 as we have had a lot of really good ones of the last few years such as Max: The Curse of Brotherhood which has a similar style. But, mixed with the particles, the lighting effects and the various colours, I would say it’s up there with the best – just not the best.
Performance wise, I was on the PS4 Pro and the game runs fine – I’m on FW 5.50 with Supersampling on (no message so not 100% sure on any pro-enhancements) and initially the game was crashing a lot. However, they released a patch yesterday which has sorted that out and everything seems to be working great now so if you are buying it physically, ensure you get the latest update before you play it.
Soundwise, I love it. The soundtrack really fits the game and genre and delivers catchy music which will stick with you for a while. The game even each levels music as you move your icon onto the level on the map, which is pretty cool. And, like I said before, the voice acting is great. Jon St.John delivers all of his lines perfectly and Hunter Pratt does a great job at voicing Rad.
Rad Rodgers is a decent 2.5D platformer which brings together various aspects of all the old 2D platformers we love and slapped on a modern look. The writing is funny, the story is entertaining and the references thrown in here are sure to make everyone who gets them smile. The game itself isn’t very long in terms of length, but if you wish to go back and see everything the game has to offer and find all of the hidden items, then you’re in for a decent amount of playtime.