It’s weirdly dark and goofy, but it’s enough of a plot to hang onto as you clear the wasteland by swatting the irradiated monstrosities with your trusty bat and whatever mutations you pick up along the way. RAD is almost entirely procedurally generated, which means sometimes your exploration and combat yields great and super-weird mutation power-ups. You might gain the ability to launch your own head as a projectile explosive, or a sentient neck-mounted blob that hurls its own attacks at your foes. Other times you might get an annoying ability like the egg-laying one where you have to hatch fresh helpers every time you pass through a doorway, or something else that just doesn’t gel with your playstyle. Or maybe you’ll be on a map layout that requires a ton of traipsing around. But those weak runs make the great ones feel even better. It’s fun to discover old-school secret walls and floors around the dungeons, too.
Of course, you’ll become more powerful as you go, too, with up to three active mutation abilities at your disposal at a time. But RAD is tougher than it looks – and it’s the good kind of tough. Health is tricky to come by, even with shops allowing you to cash in your collected currency (in the form of fittingly-’80s cassette tapes, with five-and-a-quarter floppy disks serving as keys to locked chests). As a result, death is always a very serious threat. But it’s not a complete wipe when you die, because you can bank cash for future playthroughs and unlock different, stat-enhancing bats to use at the start of a new run to give you progressively more of a leg up as you go.
While the neon-tinged color pallette and synth-tastic ‘80s soundtrack serve RAD well in the personality department, the sluggish framerate on a plain ol’ Xbox One S and the long loading times at startup and whenever you go to and from town or a new level drag things down a bit.
RAD is a lot deeper than it looks at first glance, and a lot more challenging too. Both are good things, and the procedurally generated layouts and mutations guarantee that variety will always be served. Sometimes you’ll play for minutes and other times for hours – I’m about eight hours deep so far – but the more time you spend with RAD, the more likely you are to click “New Run” when you finally die.