There are tons of roguelikes out there so let's see if this offering from Double Fine Productions stands out from the crowd.
RAD takes place after Earth's second apocalypse where you play as your character of choice who traverses the Fallow in the hopes of saving humanity. There are 8 characters to choose from; 3 of which are selectable right away. When you begin each playthrough, your only abilities include jumping and swinging a bat that you can also charge up to unleash a spin attack. However, as you progress, you'll receive mutations that drastically enhance your capabilities. For example, you may grow bat wings which let you double-jump and hover, turn your own head into an explosive, or transform into a monster centaur which lets you charge into enemies. There are tons of mutations to discover and you can enhance them, too, which usually makes your abilities much more powerful.
One aspect of RAD that's... rad is its '80s presentation complete with neon visuals, era-appropriate character styles, and a suitable soundtrack. Speaking of which, the music ranges from synthesizer-heavy to rock and there are even many orchestral movements throughout. It all adds up to create a constantly satisfying soundscape, especially when you factor in the sound effects which amplify the onscreen action. Overall, RAD may not have the best graphics but it's certainly stylish enough to stay engaging.
As you play RAD, all of your discoveries get added to a compendium called the Tome of the Ancients so watching the mutations, items, mutants, and lore sections gradually fill out is rewarding stuff. I'd imagine that it would take quite a long time to discover everything. That reminds me; as you play, you'll also come across items that you can pick up and use which can restore your health or provide temporary boosts so keeping an item on hand is a great way to survive. Also, currency comes in the form of audio cassettes which you can save in a bank in case you bite the dust and want to use your earnings in your next attempt. There are also floppy disks that act as keys so saving those up in the hopes of unlocking a valuable treasure chest is a good idea. Finally, there is a timed daily challenge mode complete with online leaderboards which offers an enjoyable distraction between main mode runs.
Although RAD sounds radical, it does have its downsides. For starters, success relies too heavily on luck. This is primarily because some mutations are much more powerful than others. For example, long-range attacks are invaluable because close-range combat can be extremely annoying. This is due to the fact that dodge-rolling doesn't cancel your attack animation so if you tap the attack button then notice an enemy performing a ground-stomp or charge attack, you might not be able to dodge it in time.
There's nothing more annoying than only getting lame mutations then facing a powerful boss only to perish within seconds. Some of the later bosses are huge damage sponges so these encounters are endurance challenges as opposed to fun face-offs. When you consider that you have to start all over again whenever you perish (albeit with some unlocks), the gameplay gets tedious quite quickly.
RAD is the sort of roguelike that's enjoyable once everything starts to click but after that, repetition and frustration unfortunately rear their ugly mutated heads. It's still a fun game but one that you'll likely only pick up and play every once in a while.
- + Rewarding roguelike gameplay with tons of cool mutations to experiment with
- + Awesome late-'80s aesthetic
- + Filling out the compendium adds replay value
- - Success relies a lot on luck
- - Gameplay gets repetitive after a while
- - Later bosses are huge damage sponges