Developed and published by GRIN Gamestudio. Available on PC. Review copy provided by Developer.
This is no fairy tale. There’s nothing fair about it.
Thus begins my journey into the twisted tale of a world gone mad. The city is under occupation by a mechanical army and the forests have become warped with pollution. And who is to blame? None other than B.B. Woolfe, CEO of Woolfe industries. I’ve never known my mother, and my father was killed in an accident at the factory – or so I was told. Combine that with the multitude of girls mysteriously gone missing, and it is all too much to ignore. Now is the time to leave the sanctuary of my grandmother’s home and hunt down the one I hold responsible for my father’s death. You can call me Little Red, and this is my story.
Little Red is all grown up in this platforming adventure hack-and-slash. Developed by Belgian developer, GRIN Gamestudio, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is another Kickstarter darling with a success story. Amassing what is by comparison a small sum of $74,139, GRIN went on to develop and release its version of this fairy tale classic. Split-up into two parts, with part 2 set to release later this year, this is a platformer where story is king and part of the challenge is unraveling the mysteries of the dystopian world around you.
A gritty retelling of the Red Riding Hood tale, you take the role of Little Red, an ax-wielding savant determined to unravel the secrets behind her father’s death. The world around you is slowly falling apart and Woolfe’s army of robotic toy soldiers is keeping everyone in check. But not you.
A platformer centered on story, it is through multiple cut-scenes and constant narration that the story unfolds from the perspective of Little Red as she makes her way closer to her goal. Written in rhyming prose, – with occasional breaks for snark – the game weaves a captivating mystery as players traverses the platforms and puzzles blocking your way. While the commentary is mostly amusing, her tough girl banter can quickly become annoying, and her poetry sometimes feels forced. This is not your grandmother’s Red Riding Hood, and she is determined to let you know. Her endless stream of bravado makes her less relatable as a protagonist, and the character ultimately suffers for it.
Regardless of your thoughts on Little Red, you’ll be enchanted by the environment. The Red Hood Diaries is nothing short of beautiful. There is a real sense here of staring at interactive artwork, especially towards the end of the game. Reminiscent of American McGee’s Alice, each area in the game looks as though it’s been touched by a warped sense of fairy tale magic. The city will delight your inner steampunk fan while the twisted forest world is enigmatic in design and gorgeous to look at, with its floating islands of trees and rock. You’ve definitely fallen through the looking glass.
Woolfe delivers a solid platforming experience, with rudimentary puzzle solving and hack-and-slash combat added in for flavor. Designed for a 2.5D experience, The Red Hood Diaries offers more complexity in platforming challenges than its 2D brethren, giving the world added depth. The platforming itself is not particularly challenging – neither are the puzzles, for that matter. Until you reach the last level, you’ll find yourself flying through the basic platforming challenges, with some button-mashing action thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, the 2.5D experience isn’t flawless, giving the player odd issues in perspective, making the challenge of jumps difficult with little feedback on what has gone wrong. Sometimes the camera doesn’t fully show where you’re jumping to or makes the path less than obvious, making the experience occasionally more frustrating than fun. The more complex iterations of interacting with the 3D plane only truly appear in the second half of the game, mitigating player problems with it, but also creating a problem of its own. Until you reach the second half, the 2.5D is utilized more in a gimmick fashion, and since the game is so short, the full experience of it doesn’t seem to last long. Overall, these bugs disrupt what is generally great gameflow.
Additional difficulty is presented with the basic hack-and-slash combat. Little Red is armed with an ax, and she definitely knows how to use it. In the beginning, you’ll only have the option of a basic and hard attack, when sneaking past your foes is not an option. As the enemies grow in power, so will your skill-set, into an eventual four-combo move set, powered by a limited resource you must collect. But aside from the boss fights, you’ll find yourself defaulting to button mashing your basic moves more often than not. Combat elements are not integrated into the platforming experience and are more like static breaks along the way. While the combat is fun, it can feel clunky and impossible to aim your combo moves in the 2.5D plane. Either way, don’t expect the difficulty to come from these fights, as the two bosses are the only encounters that will present a challenge.
Whether you find the lack of overall difficulty in The Red Hood Diaries fun or not, you definitely won’t find much of it. I managed to beat the game in a slightly less than three hours on normal difficulty, and in general, it promises around 2-3 hours until completion. The developers intentionally split the game up into two parts, leaving story-lovers at a “To be continued” cliffhanger, which feels reasonable at the $10 price point. It is currently unknown what part two will bring to the table, and whether or not increased difficulty in gameplay is simply waiting over the episodic horizon.
Overall, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries has the look and feel of a AAA title, but lacks the refinement in both combat and complexities of game play. Players will be captivated by the scenic levels and mysterious storyline, but may find the lack of overall difficulty and complexity dull at times. If you’re looking for a more casual platforming experience driven more by story than game play, The Red Hood Diaries is definitely for you.
Bottom LineWoolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is a short, yet enjoyable platformer, offering little difficulty, but tons of story, which lets you immerse yourself into the grittier side of fairy tales.
Recommendation: While Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is certainly a Kickstarter success story, it ultimately leaves you wanting more. It’s a game rich with story and beautiful environments, and is not your typical platformer, but lacks the overall complexity many people look for in a platformer and combat can feel unrefined. While perfect for the platforming uninitiated, hardcore platformer players may want to wait for a steam sale before picking this up.[rating=3.5]