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Totally Rad (NES) artwork

Totally Rad (NES) review

"And so, young and awesome Jake sets off into the wild blue yonder, endeavoring to complete five whole stages of magic and mayhem, rescue Allison, rescue Allisonís father (no clue how he fits into things, other than to give Jake another reason to look like a big-shot in front of his girl) and spew out TOTALLY RAD dialogue, all of which I forced myself to forget as soon as the words left my screen."

If not for an utterly abysmal gimmick, I likely never would have noticed Totally Rad. Forgettable platformers tend to fly beneath my radar more often than not, but this one didnít because Jaleco had a plan that was destined to work! After all, what do gamers really want when they pick up a game?

1. A wide variety of levels -- some where the main character is on foot, others where he is underwater and still more where he must master the controls of a car, mine cart or other vehicle. Sounds intriguing, but nah -- no one buys games for diverse gameplay.

2. A large number of things to grab, whether they be one-ups (or collectables that eventually deliver a one-up after enough are snared), power-ups or even some form of currency used to purchase cool items. Are you kidding? Why make a player think? Something like this can and will happen: ďGee, I got me 97 coins, so that means I need how many more to get a life? I canít figure this out -- I QUIT!!!!Ē Thatís not good for sales.

3. A bunch of pre-level cutscenes where every important character talks like theyíve suffered severe head trauma....more than once. Thatís the ticket! Just ignore all those meddlesome gameplay elements proposed in the first two examples -- people want to read about the heartwarming drama of a boy named Jake using his totally rad magic to save bodacious babe Allison from gnarly, but bogus, baddies!

I had a headache before the first level had even started. A somewhat lengthy intro told me that Jake was learning magic from a guy named Zebediah, who looked like a pudgy child molester with a TOTALLY RAD hat. However! Tragic developments are afoot! Jakeís babe is kidnapped by monsters! How exciting!

And so, young and awesome Jake sets off into the wild blue yonder, endeavoring to complete five whole stages of magic and mayhem, rescue Allison, rescue Allisonís father (no clue how he fits into things, other than to give Jake another reason to look like a big-shot in front of his girl) and spew out TOTALLY RAD dialogue, all of which I forced myself to forget as soon as the words left my screen.

With such a plan, how could Totally Rad fail to take the gaming world by storm? Well, since the list format worked so well for me just a few short paragraphs ago, letís try it again!

1. The levels are lame. There is nothing for Jake to do except go from the beginning to the end while taking as little damage as possible. No goodies to pick up, no side paths to venture down, no nothing. Just a small collection of linear stages that all follow the exact same pattern of going through a handful of short areas, usually fighting a miniboss at the end, and then taking on a massive boss. There is no variation to this theme and no reason to play through anything in this game more than once.

2. Jake is lame. His TOTALLY RAD magic consists of a couple of healing spells to rejuvenate his tiny health meter, some generic spells such as one that temporarily stops time and a few transformation spells that turn him into various animals. These spells are actually somewhat useful, as they can make seemingly impossible bosses much easier to defeat, but itís unlikely the average player will want to experiment too much with them. After all, as I alluded to earlier, Totally Rad doesnít have power-ups, meaning the only way Jakeís magic bar can be restored is to either finish a level or beat certain (but not all) minibosses and move on to the next section of a stage. Jake isnít given so many magic points that he can afford to constantly waste them testing out the various spells, especially when one considers that....

3. The play control is lame. Jake isnít exactly the most nimble hero Iíve controlled, combining slow movement with inability to do any move more complex than a jump. Jake canít even run up slight inclines -- instead being forced to jump off those demanding 45 degree hills. Shoddy hit detection adds to the TOTALLY RAD fun, as Iíve seen Jake take hits from projectiles that seemingly were on a path to sail over his head. Now thatís just beautiful, especially when those unnecessary hits force me to waste my magic on the healing spells, rather than figuring out which animal transformation might be of use against certain tough foes.

There really isnít much thatís even barely rad about Totally Rad. The bosses at the end of each level looked cool, as they were very detailed and took up a good chunk of the screen. Yeah, their attacks were repetitive and many were fairly easy to dodge (unless the shoddy hit detection played a role), but they at least were entertaining foes to go up against. I also really liked the final stretch of the last level. Taking place in a cave, the background was eerily beautiful, constantly shifting in color and easily outclassing virtually everything else the game had to offer.

Of course, the effect of that little section was somewhat dulled for me, as by this point, I was sick and tired of Totally Rad. There are a lot of elements I like to see in platforming games, but this one could only muster a handful of impressive (in appearance) bosses. Take those away and thereís little left besides a short, awkward game ďboastingĒ a feeble magic system and a generic storyline augmented with some of the worst dialogue imaginable. Now thatís what TOTALLY RAD gaming is all about!

Rating: 2/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 30, 2006)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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