So there’s no shortage of downloadable games that draw upon old-school aesthetics—typically 8-bit or 16-bit. I’ve come across very few games that borrow the monochrome style of the Gameboy—and for good reason! I don’t have particular fond memories of trying to find the best light source just so I can simply see what my character is doing. Trufun Entertainment has a different perspective than me, and they’ve created a sidescroller platformer similar to Mega Man but with a coat of Monochrome paint and it looks good and plays well.
Rad Raygun is all about the 80s. It takes place in the year 198X—the X is a nice touch—during a war with the none other than the Soviets. You control the titular hero, Rad Raygun, a robot who must travel five different worlds and destroy all of the communist robots he can. Rad isn’t alone, as he is accompanied by Dr. Gunpei Yokoi as he travels across key locations such as Berlin and Chernobyl.
Trufun Entertainment did an excellent job creating the 80s in 4 shades of green, and they throw in a little kick that would otherwise be impossible on the Gameboy. Enemy sprites are ginormous and cartoony like in Mega Man 2. The titular character, Rad Raygun, also looks like a mixture of a ninja with buttons on his uniform that clearly pays homage to the Gameboy—even his accomplice is named after the creator of the popular portable system. Even with the upgraded power, it still looks like something from the Gameboy era, and that’s a good thing.
Trufun Entertainment also put a surprising amount of detail behind the setting of the game. According to the developers, they actually went to Moscow and modeled some of the backdrops after actual areas. While it’s not totally accurate, he said 99% of the enemies are based on something in lore or history, albeit exaggerated.
FantomenK provides a fantastic score that has the typical bleeps and bloops of the Gameboy while lacing it with his driven chiptune style. Speaking of the soundtrack, Trufun Entertainment was kind enough to give me a free copy of the soundtrack, so I could experience it in all of its glory without having to play the full game. Each track provided a certain pulse that inspired me to do some side-scrolling—perfect for a game like Rad Raygun.
I spent my time in one level during my play session. The level I played felt like it came from the Mega Man X games with the continual flow of progression, but Rad himself controlled like the original Mega Man. He even has the same animations when climbing the ladders, jumping, sliding, and shooting. Rad has his own tricks however. He can position his shots, such as the Arc shot which, well, arcs. This shot comes especially comes in handy when dealing with the end boss, which I discovered jumping and shooting isn’t enough. I noticed that the jumping felt a bit erratic, which apparently is meant to emulate the feel of the controls of a Gameboy game. Even without the Gameboy design, the controls were satisfying enough and I generally didn’t have any problems.
On paper it doesn’t sound like Rad Raygun shouldn’t stand out from other nostalgic-based indie platformers. However, the sheer detail in the presentation and setting show otherwise. This isn’t’ a game that simply tries to capture your nostalgia; this is a game that truly has reverence for the Gameboy, from its design, controls, and thought-out setting.
Rad Raygun is currently on Steam Greenlight and is waiting to be released on PC. If you’re impatient, you can download it off XBLA for only 80 Microsoft points. You can also visit their website for more information, and don’t forget to check out the trailer above!