Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries Review

The blankets are numerous, wrapped around the foot of the bed, around the sides, pressing me down in place. A nightcap covering my head. Downstairs a commotion, the door forced open and it promptly stomps upstairs and frowningly Woolfe enters the room.

We squint at each other.

Woolfe opens…”My…my those are big eyes”

I nod. Eyes widened, like those of many of the Kickstarter backers, by the concept art that made Woolfe so tempting to back and it really does shine through in the game. A good solid 3D engine and great art direction make the world of Woolfe consistently attractive and however generic the settings are, they’re always worth a pause to admire. The use of generally well-placed secrets encourage a bit more exploration of the world and it’s hard to pick any problems at all. The sound, apart from a few problems noted later, is good and the music is well-suited. This is a very good looking and well presented game.

Woolfe tucks a finger under the blanket, frowns. “I see you’ve got ears too”

Already Woolfe’s presence in my room is trying. The story here is odd, frankly. Everything feels compelled to mention fairy tales with no link to what is happening in game, but then the overall story has no real relationship to any fairy tale. It’s just broadly miserable with main character Red defined by her family members who have died. For a hero, she’s portrayed as little more than a dislikeable psychopath which reduces the story to a battle of evil against another evil rather than bringing in any moral vaguery. The key enemy in the story is built up all game then only appears on screen for 5 minutes and is essentially an evil version of Mandrake the Magician. The Pied Piper is the only other enemy, who responds to questions by playing his flute and manages only to evoke the Scottish hotel owner in Little Britain. His flute-only responses do mean he avoids one of the main dialogue problems:

Sometimes the lines all start to rhyme, but then after a little time, just suddenly stop and you’re left with something that makes no real sense at all.

Such awkward speeches are padded out by jokes to help define Red but they fall flat and on at least one occasion try and get a laugh at flaws in the game itself.

I reach up to bring the covers back into place. “Your fingers are so…elegant” says Woolfe.

That may be, but they’re of little help here. Where the world is gorgeous, the interaction with it isn’t. The eternal problem of the lack of precision of 2.5D platformers have regarding aiming jumps and which platforms can be interacted with isn’t solved. The brief moments when the game returns to a 2D plane are a relief and see the game at its best but they’re too few and far between. The combat is as vague, with no real art to taking down enemies beyond bashing and hoping. There is a slow-motion button and a number of special moves that are both awkward to trigger and slightly useless that add no depth either. There’s just not enough in either case to really feel like the game can claim confidence and this is really where it all starts to fall down.

Woolfe knows. Woolfe has to know, but it risks it anyway. “Your teeth are bared. Why?”

My Gamestyle preview ended asking for polish. The core gameplay problems above were never going to be fixed, but tiny things going wrong spoil the whole experience. There are so many tiny technical glitches too that undermine the game. Sound from the cut-scenes suddenly cuts ou…and then ANOTHER POPS IN MORE LOUDLY BEFO…and then you’re back at the game just as suddenly. The end of cut-scenes will sometimes transition you back into the game where you’re already being attacked by enemies, or watching a platform you need to stand on disappear, or…for a game that has left Early Access it’s disappointing.

“Come closer and you’ll see” Woolfe leans forward into range, “they’re all the better to eat you with” and I snap. I bite down angrily, swallowing down and spitting it back out disgusted.

Even despite all those problems, the strength of the art gets a long way to carrying the game through to a recommendation. After two or three hours you get used to the problems to an extent. Then the game finishes. Apparently this, like Broken Age, is a Kickstarter project that raised over its aim and yet only provides the first part of the game. Unlike that, there doesn’t seem to be much made of this being the first part, it certainly doesn’t mention it on the Steam page and as a standalone game ends in a massively unsatisfying manner. With the second part seemingly relying on the success of the first, it seems possible or even probable that the other half will never appear. The first half gives itself no time to develop, no time to offer anything new, no time to really do anything of anything apart from offer up new glitches. And thus, this game is not recommended.