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Red’s Kingdom Review: Fist Full of Nuts

/ Aug 31st, 2018 No Comments

Red's Kingdom Review

As video games have become much more complex and complicated, it is easy to forget how satisfying those simple days of video games were. The idea of a simple concept married with a protagonist with a singular goal seems outdated but can still be so fulfilling. It isn’t that all games should be that way, but these stand out.

Red’s Kingdom is by no means a simple game — it is full of complexity in terms of its mechanics and design. What is refreshing though is how straightforward Red and his motivations are, even if the story does its best to try to make things more complicated. Also, the puzzle mechanics are augmented with adventure and Metroidvania elements.

I Came Here to Do Two Things…

Red lived a normal life. He was an industrious squirrel who took care of his papa and gathered nuts for the winter. He didn’t bother anyone. All he wanted was a quiet life in Rubrum Garove where he was left alone to stockpile his nuts.

That was before Mad King Mac came to kidnap his sweet papa and steal all of his nuts and his prize-winning golden nut. Naturally, this aggression will not stand.
 

Red's Kingdom Review

Red didn’t want any of this!

Red embarks on a quest to regain his nuts and rescue his pa from Mad King Mac. What starts out as a simple rescue operation becomes much more complicated early on. When he rescues a prisoner in the dungeons, she tells him he’ll have to find relics, magical doors, aid from allies across the kingdom and much more. It turns out rescuing his sweet papa and getting what’s his from Mad King Mac won’t be as easy as he thought.

What makes the story compelling is how little Red cares for anything but finding his nuts and saving his papa. Even when the prisoner he rescues tries to thank him for saving her, he is so focused on his goal that the gratitude she expresses doesn’t register. It is that singular focus and tunnel vision that drives the story.
 

Red's Kingdom Review

That’s cool, but have you seen my papa and my nuts?

Even as things get more complex and more wrinkles are added to the narrative, Red only ever cares about his nuts and his papa. This makes Red such an endearing and heartwarming character. More than anything, it is his dedication to his quiet life and restoring it that makes him such a likeable hero. It serves him a lot better than if he accepted his quest to save the kingdom from the Mad King in some righteous crusade. Red cares only about his nuts and his pa, and that is super refreshing.

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Red’s goal is simple. It shouldn’t be a surprise that his means of achieving his goal is equally simple.

What Red is preternaturally good at is rolling. He can roll in any four cardinal directions, but not diagonally. When he rolls, he’ll continue rolling until he hits a wall or an object, which means he won’t stop if nothing is in his way.

This makes every room Red enters a puzzle. In order to continue on or move between rooms, you have to plan your moves and carefully navigate given Red’s unstoppable nature. You need to use objects and walls to move around to get closer to an exit. This is also true for collecting items like nuts and opening chests.

Everything starts out easy and without much peril. You explore rooms with easy exit routes that only involve you rolling in straight lines, hitting walls to re-direct. Rooms become more complicated the closer you get to reaching your goal. At first, there are only a few obstacles to avoid. Eventually, you have to navigate around hazards, avoid falling off edges into water or toxic waste, and best enemies that can easily stop your journey in its tracks.
 

Red's Kingdom Review

Red’s Kingdom’s roll mechanic is simple, but its simplicity holds a hidden depth.

Luckily, Red can damage enemies by rolling into them. However, if he doesn’t do critical damage, he’ll take damage too, meaning if you’re not planning out your moves, you can easily lose your life. When he does roll into an enemy, he’ll be hit backwards in the opposite direction and he won’t stop until he hits an object. So, if you aren’t smart in choosing your direction to hit enemies, you could be killed quickly.

Some instances where enemies are especially dangerous is when they can knock you back off a ledge, into a spiked barrel or between two enemies in a terrible tennis match of death that spells your doom. There are a huge variety of enemies to contend with, ranging from basic enemies to heavies and all other types of enemy variants.

Every room is a puzzle for Red to solve in order to get closer to saving his papa and regaining his nuts. It isn’t simply hazards and enemies that Red will have to contend with. As the pitfalls and perils become more intense, so do the obstacles in his way. In later levels, switches that raise or drop colored blocks lead to rooms where you must complete certain conditions in order to find an exit.
 

Red's Kingdom Review

Fighting enemies, avoiding hazards and navigating obstacles makes for a challenging experience.

There is a lot of depth to the puzzles. Red’s Kingdom continues to add new elements to the puzzles as you advance and combines familiar ones in ways that are truly challenging. Sometimes you’ll be rolling around a room for awhile until you realize that the solution is to mesh two elements together in ways you never thought of before.

One truly tricky puzzle involves raising up blocks that Red has to roll over while using a ramp to figure out a way to the exit. The major issue with this puzzle is an awkward exit location and a seemingly impossible way to get to it. But the beauty of the game is how satisfying it is to solve tough puzzles like this one, and how most of the solutions come from a simple angle you failed to immediately see.

Red’s Kingdom not only combines traditional adventure game mechanics with puzzle solving, but has some Metroidvania aspects as well. Some rooms are inaccessible until you gain the right power to overcome certain obstacles. This means you’ll have to revisit some areas to find a new trinket or upgrade in order to move forward. It makes for richer exploration of the world, and it further deepens the experience.

Overall

Red’s Kingdom is a fun game with a lot of charm. It is unique in its blending of puzzle elements with adventure genre tropes and a bit of Metroidvania map construction. The story and its characters are light and breezy, which makes for a delightful experience.

Red’s Kingdom was reviewed on Nitendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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RED’S KINGDOM REVIEW: FIST FULL OF NUTS

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall81%

GAMEPLAY8.5

The rolling mechanic is simple, but the way the game layers depth on top of it is admirable.

GRAPHICS8

Red’s Kingdom has lush graphics with everything looking like a vibrant sticker.

SOUND8

The score is as effervescent as the story and its characters making for a calming rolling experience.

STORY8

There is something refreshing about the relatively uncomplicated motivations of Red even if the story around him does its damnedest to become more complicated.

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