The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki - Vertigo Machine
*The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki Title Theme* [CIVVIE] This belongs in a museum. I'm… excited?! We haven't done DOS trash in a while and I feel rejuvenated, because this game here, The Fortress of Doctor Radiaki, you want to say "radikai", your brain is saying "radikai" but it's not. It was "radikai" in the other timeline. Normally I'd be despondent over having to play something so trashy, but I kind of love this game as a historical artifact.
It came out the same year as Doom 2 and yet it disregards every rule an FPS game should have and should have followed. The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki does every single thing wrong. Like, it's not as painful as The Varginha Incident because it runs and it never crashed on me, which just meant I didn't get those nice little breaks. When I say it does EVERYTHING wrong… I mean everything.
The visuals, the sound, the technology, the levels, everything that this game is trying to achieve, which is not very much, fails so spectacularly that I couldn't believe what I was seeing. How do you do a game this wrong? [ANNOUNCER (GIANNI)] And now, the Sketch™. [AX3] CV-11, it is time for your meal. [CIVVIE] Excuse me, but I specified no-contact delivery in the notes. *small laugh track* [CIVVIE] This is a full contact delivery, sir.
*full laugh track* [AX3] You seem to be under the impression that I am some kind of delivery service. While it is true that I am programmed with specific routines- [CIVVIE] You ever order something from Uber Eats and they get like in your personal space because you gave them like a 50¢ tip and so they cough on your Mexican Pizza. [AX3] The Mexican Pizza no longer exists, CV-11. [CIVVIE] Why? Is Mexico gone? *laugh track* Is pizza gone? *laugh track* [AX3] They discovered that the Mexican pizza was seasoned with a special blend of paprika and tapeworm larvae.
[CIVVIE] Yeah, and a tapeworm is just a boop noodle whose snoot you boop with your poop. *woo track* [H4MM3R] I'M HERE FOR THE FULL-CONTACT DELIVERY… OF A BEAT-DOWN. [CIVVIE] You FUCKED IT UP! *TV buzzing* *The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki Title Theme* Okay, cool title burns in, we go straight to the options because I want to know what I have to work with. Obviously no V sync, or resolution, or temporal anti-aliasing, but music and sound volume, good, difficulty, I'll go with Medium for my first playthrough.
Haze level, I uh… Floor detail and wall detail, and mouse sensitivity. No rebinding controls, let's get into the meat and potatoes of it, with the cutscenes. [NARRATOR] May 8th, 1963. The world teeters on the brink of destruction! An unknown blackmailer vows to wreak atomic destruction on a global scale unless one billion dollars is deposited to his Swiss checking account quote "real soon," unquote. [CIVVIE] Oh, this is a comedy game.
*tense, unsettling music [Dead Forest by Brian Bolger]* [NARRATOR] Unable to raise the money in a timely fashion, an anxious world trembles. The maniac must be stopped! And only you have the balls and the bat to do it! [CIVVIE] Okay, have I got enough balls to walk? *laugh track* [NARRATOR] Experts believe the blackmailer may be Doctor Niko Radiaki, a household appliance magnate who dabbles in nuclear physics in his spare time. [CIVVIE] You all thought it was Radikai, right? I did, before I heard it pronounced here. [NARRATOR] Rumor has it that Dr. Radiaki is horribly deformed due to his atomic experiments. The words "radiation" and "Radiaki" start with the same letters.
UN intelligence is suspicious. [CIVVIE] Okay this isn't amazing comedy but it's trying. Look at the headline, "UN plans surprise attack", that's a joke because the paper is publishing it so it's… not a surprise… [NARRATOR] Transported by submarine to his island, armed with only a corked baseball bat, your mission is to stop this madman by any means necessary! [CIVVIE] That right there is the game lying to you because you also start with a pistol. After some more intro.
"Having been shot out of a torpedo tube," "you emerge on the beach and approach a garden surrounding the tower when suddenly…" "you hear a weird sloshing sound!" "You spin around frantically, swinging your bat blindly," "only to find the sloshing has moved to your right… and left!" "You swing again, and again," "pirouetting and swinging in a mad violent berserker rage!" "After an hour of this, you realize that you have water in your ears." Okay, that's enough, let's get to the game part of the game. "Two days later, you emerge from your exhaustion-induced coma, and enter…" "the garden!" Yeah, okay, world is probably nuked by now but sure let's go! *painful gagging and disgust noises* Okay, well, it's gross looking, and not like "oh it's the 90's" gross looking, the color palette is murky, the art is ugly, the way it renders everything is nauseating, and these Fidel Castro soldiers blend into the background because of the low resolution and swamp-colored everything. Doesn't help that if you're moving at certain angles, the floor and ceiling textures don't scroll properly with the walls. You might not notice at first but your senses are taking all of this information in and preparing you for a migraine. See, this isn't like your Wolfenstein 3D, it kinda looks like it, since there's no height variation, it's 64 pixels tall, the weapon sprites look a bit better, especially this pistol, but there's another big difference, technologically, because it's not just 90° walls, this game can do lines in all kinds of directions! That's really impressive for a game that came out the same month as Doom… 2… Now that I've found my pistol, which I already had, despite what the intro told me, I'm gonna try and shoot this ninja.
And this low-res Castro. And this entire squad of Castros. After some save-scumming, and not attacking the crowd of Castros around the corner and instead going for this exit, it's a pneumatic tube system, according to the game, and… *dead silence* *ding* You know what, maybe I don't wanna go into the sewer and I don't have to! Okay, I do have to, but the game allows me to travel back to the previous level, like I'm in HeXen or something! This doesn't have any impact on the game, it doesn't require you to go back to earlier levels to complete any objectives, though I was surprised that I was able to do it.
You might be asking, why aren't you doing that thing, you know, the thing in shooter games where you sidestep to avoid fire, and… well… Yes! Tank controls! Oh, heavenly DOS trash! You've blessed us again. You're just like the old DOS trash I remember. More stable obviously, like you're not gonna go crazy and crap out unexpectedly so… better?… This game is all turning. I think they might have had strafing during development but the dev team had an outbreak of unexplained headaches and projectile vomiting.
The controls of this game can't be remapped and they defy any kind of muscle memory you might have had even in 1994, when the FPS genre had only been big for like 2 years. Arrow keys move and turn, that's easy, they didn't fuck that up… They did a little bit… Every press of the key turns you about 15 degrees, which is impressive because modern day VR games utilize snap turning to prevent motion sickness this game did it in 1994 AND didn't prevent motion sickness. Shift, normally your Run button, is your Fire key. No, as a matter of fact, I haven't turned off the sticky keys notification, I've never had to before. It's never come up. To be fair, the game existed before sticky keys did.
Alt, normally your Strafing button, is your Run key. Control, normally your Fire button, is your Use key. Space, normally your Use key, reloads your weapon.
Yes, this game has reloading, beat Marathon to it by two months! Reloading is fine when you can maneuver around and dodge attacks while reloading but this is not that game. This is all a disaster and makes playing this game a constant struggle because you're gonna want to run, and you end up shooting, then you want to open a door and you reload. I ended up restarting the game so I could go into the next level with a little more experience, and now I know that I have a pistol at the start, and this gentleman shot me after he was dead, which is uh… The mouse controls are even worse. To aim with the mouse, you have to hold down the Left Button, that button that you usually use to shoot, and also you're still moving with the mouse while trying to aim with it, and the right button shoots. You see what I'm talking about? This is like some kind of evil mirror universe game.
Running is not recommended because every time you run, there's a head bob. If you did this in, let's say, Doom, this amounted to the gun bobbing down there. Radiaki doesn't work like this, instead your view looks up and down when you run, which is a really, really, really, really bad idea when your engine isn't true 3D. Like it is a monumentally stupid design decision. To the point that I think they were just fucking with me when making this game, like they were trying to make a terrible game because it would be funny, and it might be funny to the people who made it, like it's a big brained satire of FPS games that's deliberately shitty! This is art! But it's still shit. You saw some of the gun-play earlier, and we gotta address what's going on with it, it's very simple: *remix of A Shot In The Dark by Ozzy Osbourne* Using guns in this first person shooter is the worst I've ever seen.
The baseball bat and sword work, I guess, the pistol has some cool animation, but that's all, we're done with the positives. So this game has reloading? Yeah, right! You press Space to reload. Even if you've got a full magazine. The weapons are all trash. Every one.
An across-the-board failure. The weapons are hilariously inaccurate and most of the time don't shoot where you're aiming, and the grenade launcher isn't even centered, so it's never going where you're aiming, it's like they used the AI's aiming code to substitute the player's aiming, because it has random chances to go different angles horizontally. Same with the flamethrower, the tommygun, the pistol, every weapon is bad. Seven months, they made this in seven months, which doesn't sound like a long time in terms of game development, but it kinda was back then. Unless you were Nintendo, who spent two years making Super Mario Bros. 3.
The PC market wasn't the same. Wolfenstein 3D had a six month turnaround, and it's not like the people who made Radiaki had a time-displaced neural net processor covered in what top military scientists in the 1960's could pass off for human tissue John Carmack. They didn't have the best talent working on this, is what I'm saying, and you can't hold that against them, unless they come out saying they're "the Pinnacle of Entertainment Software."
Or they made this game which is one of the very worst I've played on this channel. Although it is presented by Future Vision, "Masters of the Imagination". Uh huh. You're gonna want to use the tommygun because the projectiles from the grenade launcher and flamethrower don't travel fast enough to hit anything. And don't fire in the direction you're trying to get them to go. When the enemies kill you with these attacks, you die BEFORE the projectiles actually explode, you can see it.
There are two extremes when it comes to the shooting in this game, one where the enemies lock onto you. That's the most common. And then there's when they can't hit you.
I wish this was more common among the hit-scan enemies in this game. It's intensely frustrating, because some of these enemies will aim better than you, sometimes, it seems completely random, as if there isn't any AI at all. The AI is… broken. Completely, utterly, hopelessly broken.
It will sometimes do nothing when you're around, which is great because they run on Blood hit-scanner rules. As soon as they see you, bam, you're hit. Especially the early game enemies, these Fidel Castro looking dudes, it only gets worse once you get to Robotown.
This is one of those games I got through inch-by-inch, save-scumming, replaying areas, making progress, saving every time I thought I was making progress… Some of the robots have flamethrowers, which hurt like hell, not like the chain gun robots who hit like Wolfenstein 3D bosses and appear in packs. Oh hey, the robot can strafe, that must be useful. Fucking bullshit! And when they die they… melt? These guys are the worst, and you'll see them first in Robotown, which, naming anything a "town" in this game is like naming a Jackson Pollack painting after a real, tangible thing, it's… it's not… it's just not.
Which is why he didn't do that and also he was a crazy person. To give you an idea of how fast these guys are attacking you, I looked up the cheats for this game, which are also wrong, in that they don't do what the website is telling me. Full health? No. It's god mode.
I don't know if they're working because this game doesn't have any kind of message system in the Heads-Up Display so you don't know when you activate cheats. If you press E, J, and G, you activate the cheat mode, and then you press H to become immortal. I really wish I could use this for more than demonstrational purposes, because you can absolutely just bind the "H" key to toggle god mode. Anyway, here's what this looks like: *Super Mario Bros. 3 Sky Land Theme* Melee enemies, like the stoner rat. He doesn't show up at all in the late game, mostly in the sewer.
He's also a major supporting character. [RATMAN] Master, we have like an intruder emerging from the sewer! [RADIAKI] Did he wipe boots on welcome mat? [RATMAN] No, Doc. [RADIAKI] I just have floor waxed! The interloper will pay! America will pay! The world will pay! [CIVVIE] I know what you're thinking, you didn't know Lo Wang was in this game, and that he was a brain in a jar or whatever this horrifying three-frame animation cutscene is doing, and not all of them are voiced, and the ones that aren't voiced phonetically spell out his accent in subtitles, which… is a joke that would work better, or at all, if it wasn't frustrating to have to translate the fucking thing instead of just reading normal text.
This isn't a digression because Radiaki is an enemy in this game. He's the second to last boss and I hate him, he's a pain in my ass. You also got the lizard-men who appear briefly. Ninjas of two flavors who drop 10 health each time you kill them, which is nice since this game can be really stingy with its health pickups, and the most common one gives you 5 health when the game's weakest attacks will take AT LEAST that off you. Weird samurai that rush you, robots, a surprising number of robots, since I guess Dr. Radiaki is an electronics manufacturer, sounds like someone was mad at Sony… Other robots include flamethrower robot, grenade launcher robot… Wait a minute they can't be Sony robots because they're communist robots, the robots speak Russian, so Radiaki might not have made them, I mean why would he, he speaks… English? There's no strategy to most of the bosses because it boils down to flailing around trying to avoid their attacks and stun-locking them with the tommygun.
The first boss, the samurai, like most of the bosses, travels way too fast, is right in your face the whole time, and has too much health. There's no strategy to it except for moving backwards and shooting, and not even in a Serious Sam way because it's one monster and there's no prioritization. The second boss is the communist robot flamethrower boss. This one took a while.
I got him stuck on a wall and killed him with splash damage. The third boss is a giant German baby. The giant German baby was by far the most difficult.
Easiest to fight, but while I was doing it, he disappeared from the map and I had to load a backup save that sent me back one level. [FLAME TROOPER] If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! [CIVVIE] That's why it was so hard, because I had to suffer through a level of this game twice. Otherwise, the baby is slower and the challenge is the flamethrower guards lurking around the area. The next boss, Radiaki himself, is borderline impossible because he has the most advanced weapon in the game, which you take off him at the end of the fight, so you can use it exactly once for the final final boss. But that's the end, and tradition says I wait till the end to get into it, since it encompasses most of this game's enormous problems all in one place.
Except: The worst enemy in this game is the level designer. Because these are some of the worst levels ever created for any game. You'd think it would be like Wolfenstein with little blocks that tile on a grid, but no, this game is more advanced than that because it has angled walls that don't have good collision detection and there's something seriously wrong with the camera because distance does not work right. Just look. The game's FOV is actually TOO HIGH, so along with the floor not scrolling properly, you're getting sort of a curved effect on closer surfaces, and I'm only pressing the Down arrow right now, moving backwards, but not straight, because that's how this game controls sometimes, so basically the effect of this is similar to seeing the entire game through a Vertigo shot.
Named for the technique used in the film Vertigo and used a million times since because it's great, a Vertigo shot, or a dolly zoom, is done by moving a camera backwards or forwards while simultaneously zooming in or out, and it produces this effect. The Fortress of Dr. Radiaki is cinematic gaming. Do you have any idea how badly you have to fuck up as a game designer to allow this to happen?! I imagine this game is what seeing the world with head trauma is like. I can't remember where I am or where I'm supposed to go, entire sections of the level are textured exactly the same, and there are no forms of signposting anywhere.
Because distance is… WRONG… Nothing is ever as far or near as you think. The levels all require key hunts and switch hunts. The keys are hard to see and clip into the floor.
There are four different kinds of keys, I think: red, blue, yellow, and grey, and also paper because those are codes that can open certain doors with keypads. They ran out of colors after yellow and couldn't be bothered after grey. Now, you also get permanent keys from the bosses that open doors in future levels, I THINK. I don't really see the point since you need those to progress past the bosses and having locked doors you don't have to find a key for is entirely pointless and kind of confusing. All I can say is that this game is hurting me, and toying with my fragile mental state, and my emotions, and I need help.
*laugh track* Key doors are understandable, something I can usually wrap my head around. The doors that require switches to open… Well, the switches, about 90% of the time, are wherever, and the doors they open look exactly like the doors you can open with the Use key, and you have to go up to them and use them to hear a cartoon boing sound. *boing* Which tells you that you can't open it. The switch to open it is somewhere else.
You won't know where, you'll run around the level, over and over, through areas you've already been in, again and again and again and again. What could have been a two-hour game will likely take you at least 6 hours. It took me 8. The sad truth is that there is no real level design going on. It's mostly a random collection of lines, not blocks, which would render correctly in an engine like this. You would think that having a map would aid with navigating these levels, but like I said, this game does absolutely everything wrong.
This map is almost entirely useless. In a good game, like in Doom or Rise of the Triad even, when you make eye contact with a surface, it'll be drawn on the map, it's an AUTO map. So that you know exactly where you've been. In this game you have to touch the wall for it to be on that map. To fully map out a level of this game, you need to hump every single wall, and if you don't, it's a blank spot on the map so you'll look at it again later and think, "Wait, I haven't been here", and then you'll go back to it and find a corpse or something and yep, you've been there.
The only way to do this worse is to not have a map at all. I can't express the confusion, backtracking, and soul-crushing humiliation of playing this game, using the map, and running in circles and knowing you're in the place you started because you recognize that one deviation in the wall textures. Now, imagine looking for secrets. It's sort of like looking for them in Wolf3D except no one ever placed any world objects or different textures, which is fine, they didn't do that all the time in Wolf3D either, but the secrets in this game are random walls that open like doors. And since the doors open instantly, if you're running along a wall spamming the Use key, you can open AND close them before you even know what's happening. The only level that doesn't suffer from this is the final map, after you've taken care of Doctor Radiaki.
[RADIAKI] I can see my shoelaces… [CIVVIE] And gotten this weapon he has on his arm. The final boss, some kind of fire-breathing dragon that teleports around outside these walls, defies any kind time and space laws by existing on this side of the wall but not this one, I'm not sure it's a dragon. I'm torn between the idea that it's actually a chicken or possibly a Jurassic Park Dilophosaur toy head that they took a picture of.
And it took every last bit of ammo I had to bring down. Radiaki isn't even the final boss in his own game. This game is awful, I know that, and possibly deliberately awful, so, if there's a lesson I can impart on people, something you can take home with you: if you make something terrible, in order to be funny, it is still terrible. I hope to learn that lesson someday too.
*end credits* [GIANNI] "Yeah, and a tapeworm is just a boop noodle whose snoot you boop with your poop." Fucking… What is this shit? Man, I gotta stop doing stuff with Civvie.