App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
[EDITED] Following an update to Radiant One in February of 2019, this review is no longer relevant. The reviewer no longer recommends this game or stands by its score. See here for more details.
Radiant One is a short adventure game, but that's probably its greatest strength. The game tells the story of a man who has learned to lucid dream in a way that is surreal, spooky, and pretty affecting, all without wasting players' time on useless puzzles or extended exploration sequences. The end result makes Radiant One take less than an hour to complete, though it will stick in your mind for much, much longer than that.
Dare to dream
Radiant One starts out innocently enough. You’re introduced to the protagonist, Daniel, just as he’s discovering his ability to have lucid dreams. After weeks of training himself to control his unconscious self, he finally has a breakthrough which allows him to fly around through the clouds and otherwise choose his own destiny while he’s asleep.
Daniel’s newfound power is really exciting for him at first, but as time wears on, strange things start happening to him where the lines of his conscious and unconscious life begin to blur. Radiant One puts you in control of Daniel just as things start going wrong for him in his dreams, and over the course of the game you guide him through environments to help him discover what exactly is going on.
For the most part, Radiant One plays a lot like a typical adventure game. You tap around on the screen to make Daniel move, and you can tap on points of interest to interact with them. There are times when you have to do some light puzzle solving and basic quick-time events, but the mechanics aren’t really the draw here.
Instead, the driving force of Radiant One is its story. A lot of strange and creepy things happen while you’re helping Daniel navigate between his dreams in the real world, and they all tie together to tell a really cohesive story that has some poignant things to say about family, obsession, and growing up. It's actually surprising how much Radiant One's story hit home for me, and all in such a short play time.
In addition to telling a surprisingly tight and competent story, Radiant One also does a great job of tone setting. The bizarre dreamscapes you end up navigating feel like they came out of a David Lynch movie (sometimes obviously so), but there’s subtlety at work in the game too. Certain scenes show a ton of restraint in terms of their framing or sound design that allow simple tricks to feel really evocative and downright scary at times.
Radiant One is packed with detail which might be the reason why the game is so short. It’s really easy to finish Radiant One in a single sitting, though I think that is what makes the game as memorable as it is. Everything in the game feels like it serves a purpose and there’s no point where the experience feels like it’s being padded out. It’s a tight story that lands effectively precisely because it doesn’t waste your time.
The bottom line
Radiant One is a fantastic little adventure game. What it may lack in mechanics or length, it more than makes up for with story and tone departments. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on this game.