Developed by Double Fine Productions and Published by Bandai Namco, RAD is a 3D Isometric Platformer. Set after a second apocalypse, you play as one of the surviving youths who will take on the adventure to restore civilisation. You step up to plate, and are provided with the special bat that will always return – even if you don’t – for next person to step up, and wield should you fail. You are also converted into a special being by the elder that allows you to traverse the radiated lands and mutate in a way that will be instrumental to your survival.
The elder of your safe-house sets you the goal to look for special monuments, known as the respirators, which may help restore the human civilisation. Activating them also opens the door to the end of the level, which involves a boss-like fight before heading to the next level. But just trying to rush through and activate the respirators is a bad decision. With only 3 hearts (hit points) and the bat as your only weapon, you will not last long in the wasteland at all. The visuals in this game are probably not what you will expect from an Xbox one game. The shading of the game reminds me of Borderlands; the levels are very colourful and quite busy to the point where you don’t know what you can hit, activate or what will hurt you. The music is nothing memorable, but it is also not intrusive. It’s just a typical background beat to prevent the game being played in silence.
But as the elder ushers you through the gate, you are faced immediately with an almost 40 seconds long loading screen. With just your trusty bat to start off, with you will need to be very cautious in your attacks on the enemies in the first stage. With every enemy you hit for a home run, you will gain a portion of your mutation bar. You can also fill up the bar by interacting with certain parts of the scenery – like a tree which changes small section of the wasteland around you into natural land. Once that bar has been, filled you will gain your first mutation. This can be one of the numerous different mutations – you better hope for a ranged attack mutation – but they are assigned entirely random.
I say this, as using your bat as your primary weapon becomes increasingly a poor choice, as the enemies grow in number and power as you progress and those hit points will tumble quickly. The mutations vary a lot which keeps things interesting. From gaining a centaur-like body that allows you to charge at enemies, to being able to throw your re-spawning head at enemies (which then explodes on impact), to having a cloaca to spawn eggs that hatch mutated beings who fight for you. These are just a few of a large number of mutations which make up the mutation Tome of the Ancients – the game’s encyclopaedia that gets filled up as you discover more things.
However, for each run, you can only have up to 3 mutations active as once. This balances out the difficulty of the game, as you will find you will use the bat less and less as you progress because it leaves you vulnerable to enemy’s attacks. Also, as after you find the respirators for the level you are on, you go down a tunnel to a boss-like enemy which, once defeated, you usually gain a heart mutation to increase your hit points in one way or another.
Also, on each of the levels are other monuments that you can activate. These seem to either fill up your mutation gauge, give you a new mutation power, tweak your mutation power – like making your spawn-lings do more damage or make them fly – or they give you a passive mutation ability such as not being affected by fiery surfaces. The passive perks can also be negative, as I picked up one called memory loss that meant the parts of the level I had explored no longer stayed visible on the map, returning the fog of war.
There is a lot about this game that a tutorial would help with, as there is a lot about the map that doesn’t make sense. There seem to be some monuments that don’t do anything, and some that require activating first. For example, if you find one of your 3 mutations are not working for you, there is a monument that replaces one of your mutations, although this wasn’t explained. I accidentally replaced my best mutation in trying to activate it.
After you complete the level you are on, you have a choice to go to the next level or go back to the safe-house, where you can deposit your tapes – the currency of the game – into the robotic ATM. The currency can be used to buy health items or mutation drinks to boost your mutation bar. Items can also be found on the map, but by default, you can only hold 1 item at a time, unless you find a mutation that allows you to hold more. There are also floppy disks to be found on the map that act as keys to allow you into certain areas or open item chests. You will need to be very tactical on what item you hold, as your health can be taken down quick quickly. You can also pick up artefacts in the game which give you special perks, such as a video rewinder which allows you to come back to life once if you get killed. But as before you can only hold one, so you need to hold the best one that benefits your play style.
RAD is actually quite a fun game to play, the different mutations keep the game interesting and, as the game doesn’t give you much about the story, a lot of things are a mystery, and enjoyable to discover. The long loading screens when you start or when you die do ruin the games flow a little bit, but there is enough content, and it is challenging enough, to keep you interested for a while.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.