Super Rad Raygun

A game by TRU FUN Entertainment for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2016.
Super Rad Raygun is a greatly expanded version of Rad Raygun, a Mega Man-inspired action platformer exclusive to Xbox Live Indie Games. The game is presented in four shades of green to mimic the visuals of the original Game Boy, but offers a crisp widescreen presentation free of the system’s notorious motion blur. The story is equally retro, taking place during the American and Russian Cold War of the 1980’s and starring a zealous caricature of Ronald Regan as the Commander in Chief, who makes some odd requests of the game’s eponymous star, referencing several real-world political events/fiascos of the 80’s.

While the original game featured five lengthy levels, Super Rad Raygun packs in more than 20 – with the original five levels included – most of which are equally lengthy. The overall gameplay has been significantly tweaked as well, with Rad performing floatier jumps and special abilities being driven by a new battery upgrade system that is regulated by a secondary energy meter.

In the original game, new abilities were gained by collecting powerups within the levels, and these included increased damage for your blaster, increased resistance to damage, a back slide, an arc shot, and a jetpack that allowed Rad to continue moving upward while jumping. Batteries made an appearance as well, acting as E-tanks that allow Rad’s to refill his health.

In the new game, the battery system has been greatly expanded. Gone are energy tank refills, limited use jetpack, and in-level upgrades. These are replaced with a series of purchasable upgrade slots that the player can fill with batteries that he discovers tucked around each of the levels. Upgrades include increased blaster damage, arc shot damage, maximum health, defense, and agility, as well as increased backlight power and energy recharge speed. Each of the seven upgrade types has six possible battery slots for a total of 42, and these may be swapped in and out at will.

If the player is going up against tough enemies, he may wish to apply more batteries to his weapons and health. When entering darker areas, the backlight is more important as additional batteries increase the player’s visual range. When dealing with obstacles that cause continuous damage, such as water, lava, and poison, it’s more important to upgrade Rad’s shielding… which eventually lets him walk face first into environmental dangers with minimal impact.

The most important of all of these upgrades is the battery recharge rate, which acts as the game’s secondary energy meter. Secondary abilities draw from this meter, so performing a double jump or ground slide will knock the meter down a bit, and draining the meter completely prevents these moves from being initiated until it recharges. More importantly, powering up Rad’s blaster can have a major impact on how quickly this meter is drained. If the player doesn’t increase his recharge rate along with the blaster’s strength, he will find himself constantly draining his energy and shooting weak projectiles. On the other hand, finding the right balance can allow the player to unleash a barrage of bullets with the energy meter filling at the same rate that they’re fired.

Killing enemies occasionally yields a few bouncing gears, called bits, and these are used as the game’s currency. With these, the player can visit Dr. Yokoi – referencing Gunpei Yokoi, creator of the Game & Watch, Game Boy, Virtual Boy, and WonderSwan systems, as well as Metroid and Kid Icarus, and also the inventor of the D-Pad – who offers to sell him additional battery slots. While it is possible to farm for currency and buy up lots of slots (the game’s opening Washington D.C. level is packed with bits), the player must scour each level in order to find batteries to use in them. Furthermore, without the proper upgrades applied, not all batteries are accessible on the player’s first trip through a level, encouraging replays to find them all. Replaying previously visited levels also allows the player to engage a time attack run.

Most upgrades simply increase the player’s damage output or defense, but some offer secondary abilities as well. For instance, upgrading Rad’s agility by one point allows him to perform a ground slide to get under low overhangs, which is an ability required throughout the game and often used to find hidden caches of bits or additional batteries. Continuing to apply batteries to this ability eventually allows Rad to perform a backdash and an air backdash, allowing him to dodge enemy projectiles and access out-of-the-way platforms. Similarly, increasing the power of the backlight not only increases Rad’s visual range in dark areas but also engages a battery detector – and eventually a battery tracker – that alerts players to the presence of nearby batteries.

This wide array of abilities and possible loadouts gives the player numerous ways to explore levels and fight off the communist robot armies of 198X. On his journey, the player encounters a number of bosses based on 80’s history and pop culture including Mad Donna, Captain Valdez (responsible for a certain oil spill), Herr Metal, and a transforming robot tank called Deceivicon, as well as NPC’s that include Nelson Mandela, Run DMC, and Mikhail Gorbachev… most of whom offer send ups of the people and events of the day. There are also references to other video games from the 80’s, including Contra, Super Mario Bros., and the Game & Watch, among others.

Gameplay is of the platforming / run and gun variety, although the scale of enemies tends to be much greater than those found in classic titles, with most being greater in size than Rad himself, along with some basic recurring enemies that tower over him. Rad’s moves at a moderate pace, but he is a bit slow to get up to speed, and there are a few icy levels that further increase his slipperiness. The greenscale visuals and oversized tiles also occasionally make it difficult to tell which areas are traversable and which are solid walls, sometimes making environmental navigation tricky as well.

Rad can perform a 2x jump, along with a double jump, either of which may be interrupted by pressing DOWN, although this level of precision is rarely required. Rad’s projectiles pass through solid objects, allowing him to hit enemies on the far side, but enemies also respawn when scrolled off the screen, so it’s possible to destroy an enemy from a distance and then walk forward to face it again.

Running and gunning are occasionally mixed in with some swimming and flying sequences. Underwater areas cause continuous damage until Rad’s defense stats are raised to the proper level, after which they are harmless. However, to balance this, there are numerous health restoratives placed underwater, making these areas quite easy once the a associated upgrades have been applied. Underwater areas are often interspersed with numerous areas that allow the player to return to the surface.

Flight sequences work similarly – except the player faces Sputnik clones and space invaders instead of fish – allowing the player move and aim freely, and travel in any direction. Other flight sequences offer forced scrolling where the player always faces forward and must avoid being scrolled off the screen.

The player has a limited number of lives, but checkpoints – which appear as Soviet flags – appear frequently, and health restoratives appear occasionally as well, sometimes dropped by defeated enemies. In general, the game is fairly easy when compared to games of the 80’s, although the levels tend to be significantly longer. 1UPs also appear hidden around many levels, and upon completion of each level, the player gets a pull on a slot machine that can award additional currency or 1UPs. Getting killed causes the player to lose some of his currency, but as mentioned, it’s possible to farm for bits by revisiting levels, or even by scrolling enemies off the screen so that they reappear (although you have to kill them four times before they drop bits again).

The game offers an overworld map, allowing players to revisit levels, and often offering a choice between two or three levels to tackle next, along with indicators showing which levels are new, and in which levels the player has collected all available batteries. Selecting any level shows what sorts of dangers appear within, such as strong enemies or environmental obstacles, giving the player a hint as to the ideal battery distribution. The world map offers similar humor to the story, poking fun with its dumbed-down American world view, with locations including ‘Murica, South ‘Murica, Canadia, Israfgaqistan, and an Iron Curtain that is literally a large curtain separating the Soviet Union from the rest of the world.

Throughout the game, the player slowly unlocks new themed color palettes which may be selected from the pause menu, allowing for something beyond the default shades of drab green (including a red scheme that's the closest you’ll get to the promised Red Raygun of 199X teased at the end of the original game). However, even in greenscale, the game occasionally shifts into other schemes for environmental effect, such as the blacks and greys of dark underground areas, light blue beaches, and the deep purples of a nighttime infiltration mission. Other unlockables appear at Dr. Y’s Cape Canaveral base, including music tracks, fan art, and a bestiary with some humorous descriptions. Completing the game unlocks a boss rush mode.

Super Rad Raygun was developed by TRU FUN Entertainment, headed by programmer Chris Bryant and artist Chris Hernandez. The game is an enhanced and greatly expanded version of the studio’s Rad Raygun released on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2013. The duo also released the stacking puzzle game Bop N’ Pop on Xbox Live Indie Games in 2009. Music for the game was composed by FantomenK, creator of the sounds and music in the original game – and some original tracks for the new game – as well as Nathaniel Chambers of BubblePipe Media.

The game was published by ScrewAttack Games and Rooster Teeth Games. ScrewAttack previously published Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures and Angry Video Game Nerd II: ASSimilation, as well as Disorder.

Rooster Teeth Games previously developed and published RWBY: Grimm Eclipse.