RAD, published by Bandai Namco, could very well be Double Fine’s last multiplatform title for a while. It’s out for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One – we checked it out on a PS4.
Of course, the main reason that this might be Double Fine’s last PS4 release for a while isn’t that the studio’s in trouble. Double Fine recently joined Microsoft’s range of Xbox studios, which pretty much guarantees that upcoming titles will be Xbox exclusive (with the exception of possible PC compatibility). RAD’s a pretty decent swan song, if you can call it that – but it’s not one of Double Fine’s best.
RAD is a roguelike with a ton of character and style – mostly stemming from the game’s 80s vibe that it is drenched in. Fans of series like Stranger Things and other nostalgia-imbued shows will no doubt love it for that reason alone, provided that you have some affinity with the roguelike genre and its gameplay loop.
In RAD, the world’s gone through not one but two apocalypses, but the wasteland that remains is somehow brimming with color – perhaps that’s partly radiation, but I like to think it’s the kind of neon flavoring that’s so typical of the 80s. In a 3D world that is mostly represented from an isometric point of view (with some subtle camera changes in places), you also quickly find out that it’s a place where it’s hard to stay alive, since the game doesn’t exactly ease you into it.
Even though you’ll taste defeat, the fact that you come into contact with this irradiated world and the creatures that inhabit it also means you become more radioactive every time (I guess it wasn’t just neon, after all). That may sound like something you want to avoid, at least on paper, but in RAD this leads to interesting and unique mutations that make you more powerful every time you fill up the corresponding bar at the top of the screen.
It’s in these mutations that RAD develops itself into what we’ve come to expect from Double Fine – a quirky title with plenty of character and humor. Each mutation is potentially more outrageous than the previous one, and since they’re randomly generated the experience stays fresh. Because the same thing applies to the game’s levels, that freshness is also there when your character ends up dying. Death is permanent, so you’re thrown back to the beginning. You can keep some of your possessions though, making a new start a bit easier than the previous one.
You can also go underground (as mankind apparently did to avoid some of the radiation) where tunnels are home to vendors and passageways to other areas, but the real meat of the game is undeniably the above-ground action where radiation and mutations reign freely.
I often wonder how likeable RAD would have been without its impeccable sense of style, and I’m not sure I have the answer. Fact is that the retro vibe that the game has in its visuals as well as its excellent 80s soundtrack is an integral part to the experience, which I suppose applies to many who were around in that era. I suppose that outside of the mutations RAD is a fairly standard roguelike title in terms of gameplay, but it’s the one to go for if you enjoy the audiovisual style that Double Fine went for.