Monday, December 17, 2012

NES Replay: The Adventures of Rad Gravity

Developer: Interplay
Publisher: Activision
Released: 1990
Since This Game Is Lazy: I will be too
and not capitalize this

In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: The Adventures of Rad Gravity.

I have a friend who's a woodworker. He learned the trade from his father, and one of the lessons he learned from his father was the phrase, "Finish the back." In other words, it doesn't matter if the part you're working on is going to be seen during normal use or not, you still have to treat it like it's going to be visible.

When we talk about games that are "polished," that's what most of us are generally referring to: Games that follow the mantra of "finish the back." It doesn't matter that only a few people are going to notice that the arrow that you use to select menu options pulses with the background music. It doesn't matter that only a few people are going to reach a super-secret special room. Finish the back. Make sure every corner of your game counts.

Some games are very highly polished, so much so that they sparkle. I'm thinking about games like Super Mario World, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger and others. Some, on the other hand, aren't, which doesn't necessarily have to doom them. One of my favorite games is Dark Cloud for the Playstation 2, and it's one of the least polished games I've ever enjoyed (not to mention really, really weird). Sometimes there's a bit of a ramshackle charm to some less-polished games that gets lost once you start applying a gentle sheen to it.

However, The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a game that's sloppy in a bad way, and for a game that appears to want to be a big, fun game, that's a problem. Here are some quick examples:

Just like every other any game, there are barriers that you have to jump over, usually in the form of solid blocks. You're not supposed to be able to walk through them, just like every other game ever. However, some of them you can move through by jumping at them instead of trying to walk through. Some of them you don't even need to jump through to walk through them. This doesn't appear to be on purpose.

Look at the screenshot to your right. Tell me what blocks are supposed to be solid blocks and what is supposed to be part of the scenery. For example, my character is standing on a block that doesn't appear to have a solid line across the top. The next block over looks different. There is no difference between the two blocks. For that matter, look at all those different blocks in the background as well. It's ugly and serves no purpose, while being headache-inducing and bland. This isn't level design, it's level diarrhea.

Here's another one, and it's going to sound like nitpicking. There are areas where you can press up or down and go from level to level. They behave exactly like a ladder or a vine in any other game. When you climb on them, to reflect that you're going up and down. There's no little elevator below you, nothing other than your  character hovering in mid-air stupidly.

Like I said, this sounds nitpicky, but this has a point. It comes down to this: Finish the back. They honestly couldn't change his sprite to indicate he's standing on some sort of ladder? If it's supposed to be a "gravity ladder" or something, why not change his sprite so that his hair stands up a bit and he looks like he's floating? Mega Man games did this in 1987, why can't Rad Gravity three years later?

Not only that, but this game has the worst music in the history of ever. It's so bad that I thought that my emulator was broken. I ran it in a different emulator, and no, it's really this bad. Take a listen to the title screen.

With an extra pass through the level design, the graphics or really anything at all related to this game, this could have been a fun space adventure. Instead, The Adventures of Rad Gravity just looks, plays and feels lazy.

Final Rating:

Next Week: The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

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