RAD Isn't as Rad as It Looks

Published: June 18, 2019 12:30 PM /

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I'm a sucker for roguelikes, so when I see an up-and-coming game in the genre, I seize the opportunity. RAD looked like an interesting upcoming roguelike by Double Fine, and I like its approach. Roguelikes are just too gritty and serious nowadays, so its lighthearted 80s aesthetic is refreshing. I was excited at the prospect of playing RAD at E3, and when I left my gameplay demo I felt a tad disappointed. RAD is by no means a bad game, but it doesn't feel as original as its theme makes it out to be.


My gameplay demo allowed me to play as three different characters. As far as I can tell, this is simply a cosmetic option. The first problem I have with RAD are character models. Up close, they are unfortunately quite ugly. And no, I don't think this is a result of RAD's post-post-apocalyptic theme. Thankfully, RAD's environments are much more appealing. The aesthetic is inspired by the 80s and the neon-soaked, hazardous environments are quite pretty.

Like the graphics, the soundtrack is super groovy. At one point, I swore I heard A-ha's famous hit "Take on Me," although I know that particular track in RAD was more a spoof on the song than anything else. If you've heard "Take on Me" at any point in your life, though, you'll know the kind of sound RAD is going for. I could see myself picking up the soundtrack; it's actually that good.

rad game

Gameplay-wise, RAD falls short. I don't think my demo was a good demonstration of the meta-progression present in the game. In my interview with RAD Project Lead Lee Petty and Producer Kevin Johnson, I learned that meta-progression mechanics are present in the town as it develops and expands throughout your game. I did not have the opportunity to see this in full during my demo, but I was able to try out the combat and mutation mechanics. I was thrown into the wasteland of RAD and fought various strange enemies. Combat itself is extremely simple at first and rather underwhelming, as your fun will largely be dependent on the meta-progression and mutations you find along the way.

In RAD's top-down combat, my character used a bat to whack enemies. You also have a dodge ability and slam, which are passable but nothing revolutionary. The real fun of combat stems from mutations. Mutations seem to appear randomly from killing enemies. At one point, my legs became toxic, and I could release a trail of caustic slime as I ran around. Enemies following my path would become damaged by the slime. Another interesting ability was a tail that spawned creepy, spider-like heads of my character and attacked surrounding enemies.

rad game

I see a lot of potential in this mechanic if Double Fine is able to have a large variety of mutations that feel distinct from one another. Later on in combat when you receive a larger number of mutations, I imagine combat will be more exciting. The beginning stages feel a bit like a slog at this point, though. As far as exploration goes you will find these obelisks to activate in a level. These take you to a boss that you have to kill to proceed, and then it's on to the next level.

Again, my main gripe with RAD was its combat. The early stages of a roguelike can be difficult to get into and aren't the most exciting parts of a game. I have some faith that later on, RAD has much potential to be fun. While the combat might be lacking, I found the music and graphics to be pretty swell. It's not going to be a Double Fine classic like Psychonauts or Brütal Legend, but if you're a fan of the 80s or like roguelike gameplay, RAD might turn out to be better than the time I had with it.

RAD releases this Summer on the Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.

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| Staff Writer

Austin cut his teeth writing various  fan-fiction stories on the RuneScape forums when he was in elementary school. Later on, he developed a deep love for… More about Austin