Saturday, February 18, 2017

Red's Kingdom (iOS, Android, PC) Review

Before we close out this week's activity here at SuperPhillip Central, we have a review of a game that released last month on iOS and Android devices as well as PC. It's Red's Kingdom, a unique take on the sliding puzzle mechanic found in other games. Is it fun, or will it drive you nutty? Let's find out with the SuperPhillip Central review.

Backtracking again? Aw, nuts.

Sometimes developers need not come up with a wholly brand-new gameplay mechanic to create a novel experience. Sometimes it's just taking one mechanic and introducing it with some new dressing or with a completely different structure than the norm to create a fresh experience. That's what Cobra Mobile's Red's Kingdom does, and while it isn't totally successful with their approach, the overall game is worthy of checking out, especially for its low price.

The main gameplay mechanic of Red's Kingdom isn't that new of an idea. You control Red by swiping in one of four directions, and Red rolls continuously in that direction until he hits a solid object. As I said, the idea isn't really novel, but the structure of the game is. Instead of being a linear level-based affair, Red's Kingdom takes place in a wholly interconnected world. While this quite cool, it also becomes one of the main issues with the game, which I'll cover later.

Red's Kingdom has players moving from room to room, whether indoor or outdoor, by finding the correct path through them. This means to clear each room you'll have to do the correct combination of rolls to reach the exit. Sometimes there are multiple exits to take, which offers some exploration into the fold. Often, going off the beaten path can have you come across hidden goodies like a heart in a jar, where collecting three of these increases Red's health by one heart.

The beginning of Red's journey sees him rolling his way to this castle.
Starting off, you simply roll around rooms until you find the right means to reach its exit. As you go through the game, you'll find that the developers add multiple new hazards and obstacles into the game to keep things interesting and engaging. These range from buttons that open doors, levers that alternate between raising and lower red and blue blocks, puddles of sticky tar that stop Red right in his tracks no matter if there's a solid object nearby or not, and ramps that send Red flying over chasms.

There is a Metroid-style influence also found in Red's Kingdom. In the game, Red will come across certain items that allow him to access previously unreachable areas. For instance, early in the game Red will meet up with a fellow squirrel who will give him a medallion. With this medallion Red is able to deal damage to enemies that were once invincible to his rolls. Attacking enemies is as easy as rolling into them, but if you're only doing this, you also take damage. Thus, there is a cool technique the game teaches you, and that is to tap the screen right before Red rolls into a given enemy to deal a critical hit and take zero damage from rolling into the foe. Another item grants Red the power to roll into pink plants that spit him out to reach otherwise inaccessible locations.

Enemies can be rolled into, but if you don't tap the screen
before barreling into them, Red will take damage.
For some of the secret goodies to be found in Red's Kingdom, you'll have to travel back to previous areas to use your new acquired item or ability to get them. Here comes a host of the game's problems. For one, backtracking in Red's Kingdom isn't as simple as say, The Legend of Zelda, where you can just run through a room. Instead, Red's Kingdom requires you to essentially solve a puzzle by navigating through each room by rolling from solid object to solid object until you finally reach the exit. The requirement to resolve rooms gets very tedious very quickly.

Another problem with Red's Kingdom is that many of the areas of the game look similar to one another, especially dungeon areas. It can mighty difficult recalling which dungeon or even outdoor section of the game's overworld contains the destination you wish to go to. "Now, where was that section of the world where that one spitting plant leading to that hidden chest I'm missing?" Questions like that will occur often, and since the world of Red's Kingdom is such a maze full of annoying backtracking, this becomes a serious problem.

What there is of the story is lighthearted fare that doesn't interrupt the gameplay too terribly much.
All this would be fine if the save system was adequate. In its state, however, it's really not. Red's Kingdom automatically saves when you cross save icons in specific rooms. It also saves when you reach various transporters strewn throughout the world that allow you to travel to any other transporter you've already discovered. The problem with the former is that you find yourself in the wrong area of the game (again, easily done as a lot of areas are indistinguishable from one another), you can't just quit to a point from where you were transported because the game automatically saved when you rolled over a save icon-- usually one deep in an area. This means you have to backtrack all the way through an area just to reach the transporter to hopefully warp to the correct area.

Red's Kingdom sports an isometric view that generally works well. However, sometimes parts of the scenery can be obscured by other objects, making it hard to get a full grip on the room you're currently in. There were more than a couple of occasions where I aimlessly rolled around not knowing what to do until I finally saw a lever that could be barely be seen due to being obscured by another object.

An issue with the isometric view that I'm glad the developers got right is the ability to hold the touch screen to show dotted lines that represent all the paths Red can roll. This is crucial to use when there are multiple elevations to take in account as well as damaging hazards like enemies, pools of dangerous liquid, or spiked barrels. Having the dotted lines show what Red will be stopped by or will run into makes the isometric view much less of a bother than it could have been.

For rooms with different elevations, it's good to get a grip on where Red will roll.
Red's Kingdom delivers a delightful visual package with 3D rendered graphics and detailed environments, whether outdoor with its lush vegetation or inside with its well done lighting effects, offering radiant auras that illuminate corners of the otherwise dank dungeons. The handful of animated scenes in Red's Kingdom are also pleasant to look at and cute to boot. What isn't so pleasant is the soundtrack. The song you'll hear the most in the game that features the bagpipe really grates on the ears after a few play-throughs. Now, imagine hearing it repeatedly as you frequent the area it plays in.

Overall, Red's Kingdom has its fair share of problems from the tedium of backtracking, the need to resolve rooms during said backtracking, areas that look too similar to one another, the maze that is the interconnected world, and an imperfect save system. However, even with all of those faults, Red's Kingdom offers an adorable adventure that will test your brain and sometimes even your reflexes. While the overworld structure of Red's Kingdom doesn't really work for a sliding puzzle game of this type, it's far from a bad game. It's just not a particularly great one.

[SPC Says: C+]

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