When you think of sandbox, what does that entail? For me, it’s freedom – not necessarily wandering off down the newsagents or checking to see where a lake ends, but if I see something I want to interact with, I can. Radio Viscera is a bit like that.
Before taking you down a misleading path, pushing you into an oven, and having you for tea, this indie title by Fire Face, on Steam, is not a sandbox. It’s pretty linear in that you begin at A and end at B. Pending you aren’t killed in the process.
The sandbox comparison is more on par with the real-life counterpart of mayhem, innovation and downright fun associated with it. Radio Viscera is about dissecting your environment with your gun and being creative with your death set-pieces. It’s raw, gutsy… it’s visceral.
That’s not exactly what Radio Viscera says on the tin, as there is a plot. Based on the infamous Y2K bug that destroyed the world in 2000 (if you weren’t born, nothing happened other than the odd calendar reminder to call your mum mysteriously disappearing), you have to make your way to safety whilst determining the fate of the satanic Y2K cultists.
Mad right? The tone in Radio Viscera is set almost immediately. Planted in an industrial area void of any evident life, you return to the airlock to get washed, trimmed and debriefed. Still, according to protocol, your suit has been infected, and it’s suggested that you dunk yourself in some acid. If you’re one of those who thinks they think out of the box, you too will be caught up in the Y2K bug’s deception as you experience your first death. It transpires that there is a bug in the system, and besides getting to safety, who says causing a bit of creative destruction shouldn’t be on the cards?
Radio Viscera is a top-down isometric viewpoint where you control your little scientist/engineer type with their absolutely wicked air cannon. Not those poncy little pellet guns that your mate Daryl with the mullet says he got off a Navy Seal, but a device that can hurl enemies through walls, into traps, and redirect henchman traffic into some evidence-eliminating toxic waste. Oh, and you can clear a path by blasting walls too.
I couldn’t care less about cliches, but Radio Viscera is a literal blast. Anytime you see a bland concrete wall, you can shoot multiple entry points allowing you to storm through. On many occasions, depending on the enemy type, you’ll be blasting them against the wall, pushing them through to set up a mini-golf-like shot into a big spray of digital claret, a.k.a. their gruesome deaths. While a linear death run, it’s a creative process where the environmental hazards are your canvas.
Retro fans may also draw slight comparisons to Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters in terms of design with a hint of Journey To The Savage Planet, but with the original Red Faction’s wanton destruction. It had that same awe about the latter, too “you mean I can blow this up and even write my name in it?”. Good luck with controlling the streams on that one.
It was alright with the mouse and keyboard, but assuming it’s down to dexterity, I switched to a controller, and it was miles better. As a twin-stick shooter, you can multitask the action with that mindset of keep moving to your goal or hanging around and building your multiplier up with some carnage. Setting up these deaths is a hell of a lot of fun, but the downside is you can die too, and when you die, the multiplier and whatever objective you were engaged with resets. Not back to the beginning, mind.
This was the most frustrating element about Radio Viscera, as you can find yourself overwhelmed. My strategy would switch from run and gun to take everything out, but while that method allows for freedom to explore, if you die, guess what? Still, there’s another incentive to killing ’em all (which is so much fun that I need to book a psychiatrist appointment just as a precaution), and that’s the unlockables.
Hidden on the levels are posters and mutators where if you obtain them all and get hi-scores and not die, you’re rewarded with numerous modifiers to make the game even more mental. A lot of it is cosmetic, but if you read one in three of my reviews, I’m a customisation whore and love the incentive of unlocking new gear to… erm… look good.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been playing Radio Viscera for some time now, so the honeymoon period will have worn off, right? Wrong. It’s just as entertaining as when I first air-blasted my first wall and the unpredictability of traps – it’s pretty easy to innocently walk through a corridor only to get crushed, burnt or vaporised – this game feels so incredibly fresh. If it weren’t for the camera angles being locked to the action, this would have been fun as a multiplayer as well.
I highly recommend Radio Viscera!