The more I play video games these days the more I wish that games were as challenging as they were during the 80s and 90s. During that time video games made you pay for dying, video games required time and effort, video games were frustratingly awesome. Unfortunately, Radiant isn’t much of that at all, which is a huge disappointment for me, and by the look of the comments in the Mac App Store, I’m not alone.
Radiant takes a pretty decent stab at recreating the original feel of Astroids and Space Invaders, all while providing a modern look upgrade to the games, but the aesthetics aren’t the problem—the game looks great—it’s the game play that’s lacking.
Like I said off the top, this game looks great. The entire time I spent playing the game it felt like I was playing a modern Astroids-Space Invader hybrid. There were quite a few moments that had me remembering the first time I booted up that dusty Atari 2600. So, as a retro remake of two of the most classic video games ever made, the graphics look great. But, as a retro remake, that also happens to have been released in 2011, it’s missing some key game play dynamics that could easily place this game over the top.
It’s pretty easy to forget about the good things about this game because of the things that need work, but the game is a good time on a whole. Honestly, I spent an hour with it immediately after I launched the game for the first time, a rarity for me. I usually find myself getting bored, then moving on to something else 20 minutes later these days. That being said, once I hit the hour mark with Radiant there were two things that started to drive me crazy.
What needs work
The first thing that drove me nuts: you’re stuck on one axis, at the bottom of the screen. No matter how far into the game you get, you can’t navigate top to bottom. Instead, you are left firing from side to side, left to right, as aliens and astroids reign down on you from above. It was frustrating, and I got pretty annoyed after playing for an hour. Sure, the Space Invaders has the same dynamic, but I think we could have done away with it in 2011.
The second major misstep is the lack of user controlled firing mechanics. Instead of hitting a button to shoot at oncoming enemies, both alive and tectonic, you’re at the will of auto-fire. Rate of fire in this case is based on the computer determined time delay. Instead of spamming a button to blast through an astroid, you have to sit and wait for the computer to fire, it got old quickly.
This game quickly became more about avoiding trouble then it was destroying stuff. For me, the lack of fire control is not something I can get beyond. Personally, I think this game would have been better off if they left that behind. Let me get up in the action, and make me pay for my mistakes. If I miss a shot or slam into an enemy I deserve to die, don’t coddle me through game mechanic decisions.
Radiant is $1.99 on the Mac App Store, so it’s hard to bag on them for their decisions about game mechanics. At $1.99 I can’t complain about payoff, or price, but I can complain about the experience. I felt like this retro remake dumbed down the gameplay experience. While Radiant isn’t the only game this decade to really turn down the complexity, it does provide a stark contrast to my childhood memories of Astroids and Space Invaders. Dodging and weaving, timing well placed shots and paying dearly for any missteps were all things that I loved about Astroids, sadly it’s missing from Radiant, and we get auto-fire instead.