Super Rad Raygun on PC
Set in 198X, Super Rad Raygun has you playing as the titular, robotic protagonist, working in service of a desperate America to fend off Soviet forces during the Cold War. Does that sound incredibly retro? Well, that’s because, in every single sense of the word, it’s supposed to be.
Presented in a nauseating green, 8-bit visual style, Super Rad Raygun is an action platformer à la Mega Man, while also drawing heavy inspiration from those generic Game Boy titles no one truly bothered with back in the day. It’s that very premise upon which it builds that makes Super Rad Raygun incredibly tough to describe bluntly, because in doing so, it will sound nothing short of horrendous. In reality, however, Super Rad Raygun is quite the enjoyable love letter to Game Boy era gaming, despite its fair share of avoidable shortcomings.
Its controls, as well as its general level lay-outs, are rather simple, though not necessarily dull or boring. You can walk, jump, and shoot your way through its levels as most platformers allow, yet some neat power-ups and abilities obtained by finding hidden Battery Packs scattered throughout the levels gradually add some more variety to the gameplay. Things never get too complicated, but they rarely tend to remain too straightforward either, striking a fine balance between simple platforming fun and more frantic, action-heavy sequences.
The story presented in Super Rad Raygun, while honestly quite forgettable, throws 80’s references at the player at any given opportunity, cramming its handful of levels chock full with pleasant throwbacks and sarcastic jabs aimed towards a variety of themes. Rad Raygun himself is suspiciously shaped like a Game Boy, for example, while enemy forces bare a strong resemblance to Super Mario Goomba’s and Rockets. However, these nods extend far beyond gaming, ranging from the refreshing New Coke soda to the troubled political situation and pop-culture in general. I won’t spoil most of these for you, but paired with some clever and sharp writing, these make for some truly hilarious dialogues.
Besides that, Super Rad Raygun loves to poke fun at traditional gaming errors, but in that aspect, the game rather makes a fool of itself more so than anything else. An early example hits you when the villain tells her troops not to fear death, for they will respawn the second they’re out of frame. Initially this made me chuckle, but in hindsight, Super Rad Raygun infuriatingly adapts these issues itself instead of ironing them out, creating some truly inconsistent inconsistent difficulty spikes along the way. However, we’ll delve into the latter a bit later on.
Other instances where Super Rad Raygun brings traditional issues along with it is when it comes to transitioning screens, reminiscent of earlier Zelda games where levels where split up into different frames and segments. In other words, screens frequently remain static until the player moves to the outer edges, which then reveals a new part of a level, and so on. What happens here, sadly, is that bullets fired by enemies make that transition along with you, whereas most transitioning side-scrollers have already learned not to allow projectiles to transition.
This isn’t that much of an issue on its own, but when a game is such an effective parody in writing like Super Rad Raygun, small tidbits like these can pull you out of the experience on multiple occasions. All of its strengths combined with its flaws makes for a rather inconsistent difficulty, as mentioned before. Controls are responsive and tight, making the action a blast to play through, yet when you’re dodging incoming fire or hopping over enemies to avoid taking damage, it can occur that you slide ever so slightly too much to one end of the screen, triggering a respawn on the other side. While one or two similar instances could be forgiven, Super Ray Raygun quickly made a habit of sandwiching me between enemy spawns, forcing me to maintain my momentum or to get stuck between two waves of enemy fire.
In the end, despite it bringing classic issues along with it that can lead to a rather inconsistent difficulty, I quite enjoyed my time with Super Rad Raygun, although it could have been a bit more fine-tuned and polished. Its monochrome off-green visuals provide a nostalgic Game Boy-era experience that’s merely complemented with tight and simple platforming controls. While its style is what may draw you in, its sharp writing fills this parodic adventure to the brim with 80’s references, creating a trip to the past in a light, albeit challenging way.