Game: Red’s Kingdom
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Cobra Mobile
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Age Rating: E for everyone (US) | 3+ (Europe)
Price: £8.99 | €9.99 | $9.99
Release Date: 16th Aug 2018
(Also available on PC and iOS)
Overall feeling: I like it!
Review code courtesy of Rising Star Games.
A toothy squirrel named Red is rolling through the kingdom to rescue his Pa from a mad king. Yes, “rolling” is how Red travels in this charming puzzle game from Scotland-based developer Cobra Mobile.
Keep that ball rolling
The fun of Red’s Kingdom is figuring out how to avoid traps and make use of movable blocks, jumping ramps, bouncy tires, etc. to reach your destination.
Red rolls across puzzle rooms in straight lines, stopping only when he bumps into an obstacle or wall. Through careful navigation (or haphazard trial-and-error, more likely), your goal in each puzzle is to guide Red from one room exit to the next. You do this by swiping the touchscreen in the direction you want Red to roll – or by using the L-stick or D-pad.
Along the way, you collect nuts, hearts, and items from treasure chests. Enemy squirrels and other dangers may bar your path. But there’s always a way around them, through them, or over them. Remember: You can never get stuck irreversibly. And there’s always the room-reset button!
A few puzzle mechanics remind me of Zelda games. For instance, flipping a switch to change something in the room’s configuration. Like Zelda, there are enemies too, except the ones I’ve encountered so far don’t move. They wait patiently for Red to roll into them cannonball-style; with a carefully timed “critical hit”, you eliminate them with a mere button press. But if you don’t time your hit right, Red gets thwacked and loses hearts.
A solid choice for light travel
At important junctures of your journey, amusing little cut-scenes remind you why you’re rolling across the kingdom. The story is simple and effective, but the meat of Red’s Kingdom is its puzzles. Red’s Kingdom isn’t meaty like a steak, though. It’s pleasantly light like a ham sandwich, something you’d bring along on a picnic.
It’s the perfect puzzle-game for a vacation: charming visuals, soothing music, and a bit of challenge without taxing the brain too much. It’s low-intensity and yet engaging. There’s almost no time pressure, no reason to hurry in each room. Take as long as you like to plan Red’s moves.
Yet, relaxing as Red’s Kingdom is, I find it addictive. Because each room is so small and most take mere seconds or minutes to complete, I never feel like quitting from fatigue. I keep wanting to roll on and on. But if I’ve only got a ten-minute session, it’s easy to put down and pick up again later. Save points are found liberally throughout the kingdom – you’ll find one every two or three rooms.
There’s room to explore
The game’s overworld is basically a seamless string of rooms. That is, rooms connect to each other and aren’t disjointed puzzles. This means you can backtrack to previous rooms, though I once got lost doing that.
I got lost because Red’s Kingdom isn’t a linear string of rooms. There are forks in your journey which branch off into different rooms. This encourages exploration and a slight air of mystery. The kingdom is pretty large, so you’ll occasionally want to use teleport stations.
Red won’t drive you nuts
The game is rarely difficult. Though, the first 10 minutes had me rolling in the wrong direction constantly because I used the D-pad instead of the touchscreen and it took a while to get used to the game’s isometric view.
Since then, I’ve played to the 40% progress mark, and it’s never felt punishing. The game introduces new elements and new dangers at a gentle pace. Will the puzzles get much harder from here? So far, the progression of difficulty has been so gradual I’ve hardly noticed it. I have gotten stuck in two or three rooms for ages (over 10 minutes), but that’s very few out of the kingdom’s dozens of rooms. Clever players can probably finish Red’s Kingdom in several hours or less. Though it’ll take me at least 10 hours, I think.
Would I keep playing it? Aye, my appetite’s been whetted for Red’s cute visuals and quick-session gameplay. It’s been a refreshing change from the grittier games I’ve been playing which require a much longer time commitment.
Is Red’s Kingdom worth $9.99? For relaxation value and well-designed puzzles, yes!