Radio the Universe Preview – Listen to the Universe
Games can take a long time to develop, and the years of development take their toll. Radio the Universe, originally Kickstarted in 2012, is indicative of this elusiveness, though not just concerning the length of development time. Instead, it presents a top-down adventure blending action, platforming, and puzzle-solving within a cryptic and mysterious world.
Radio the Universe does not present a lengthy introduction to the world, as the player will be dropped straight into gameplay a minute in. It starts the player with a standard kit, as you begin your adventure with a sword and a dash. Your sword is your primary source of damage output, and the player will use their dashing ability to traverse the environment and avoid enemies.
The puzzles within levels are environmental, requiring the player to look for ways for the toolkit to interact with the environment. The player will later gain access to firearms and bombs, which are effective in combat and puzzles. After finding an upgrade station, you can perform upgrades to your equipment that will supply you with various effects at the cost of batteries.
Batteries are obtained by defeating enemies or finding stores of battery containers throughout levels. One novelty to mention is how enemies can damage other enemies, which the player can use as an alternative to attacking in some situations. The controls are responsive and offer enough time for the quick reactions required for this. If you’re familiar with top-down perspective Zelda games, gameplay should be easy to grasp.
While Radio the Universe can be challenging at points, it is also accessible in how you approach it, as upgrades can improve your survivability and damage output. People looking for a more challenging experience can opt out of purchasing upgrades, while people wishing to enjoy the world can grind currency to purchase more upgrades. While there was no difficulty option during the demo, it seemed to promise an enjoyable experience for many varying player skill levels.
While the gameplay itself is standard, where Radio the Universe truly shines is in its presentation. From the opening cutscene and the world’s atmosphere alone, the tone of the world sets itself well. The animation and pixel art are gray and dim, depicting a slightly surreal and foreboding world.
The art, sound design, music, and UI all culminate into a dark, mesmerizing world that draws the player into perpetual curiosity. Despite the dimness, small implementations of a neon-bright computer interface and various other digital effects add a layer of digitization to its decrepit world. While there is a hint of familiarity, an underlying mystery remains regarding accessible computers and how they operate.
In terms of sound design, each action has a fitting accompanying sound effect. One example would be the dash, which has a mechanical piston-like sound effect that indicates the start and end of your dash cycle. In addition, every action and UI notification has an accompanying sound effect, indicating what action or when an action can be performed. Even outside of active gameplay, each sound design choice is phenomenal, as the ambient sounds of the footsteps offer a feeling of emptiness within the room.
The art of the UI, which blends in with the world, also proves outstanding. For example, when you can perform a jumping dash, which is a dash over a gap or onto a higher platform, you will see a grid appear on the location the player would end up after performing the dash ability. While this feature is unimportant as the controls are highly intuitive, the attention to detail in correlation to the overworld as it extends to the UI is outstanding.
In extension, all of Radio the Universe’s sprite animations are kinetic and follow a smooth flow that’s both pleasing to look at and play. While there’s so much going on with the art, animations, and sound, none feels overwhelming or similar. It was easy to identify which sound correlated to what, and each action had a signification that instantly clicked in your brain. Every design choice presented within the demo seemed methodically perfected in its execution.
Overall, Radio the Universe is an experience that felt just right in every regard. Every mechanic is accomplished with a satisfying flair. The boss of the demo provided a simple puzzle-like structure yet also allowed the player to establish their order for tackling the boss while keeping a fast-paced challenge that was a blast to overcome.
While the demo didn’t provide much content, the Kickstarter and later trailers demonstrate progressively evolving gameplay and more areas to discover. As of writing this preview, there is no official release date for Radio the Universe. However, we’ll keep you updated, as Radio the Universe is an intriguing experience that offers a universe of potential.
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