06/05/2021

๐Ÿบ Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood | PC | Review | 7/10 | "All This Began To Add Up Into A Good Time"๐Ÿบ @DevespressoG @PixelHunted #IndieGames #GameDev

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When I get to hell they’re going to be playing electro-swing. If you haven’t had the pleasure, this is a music genre that dropped right out of the devil’s arsehole: an unholy jazz-era pastiche of big beats and brass primarily enjoyed by twats with overly groomed moustaches, waistcoats and top hats. I would rather have needles jammed into my spine.

Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood opens with electro-swing. Its heroine is the lead singer in a band called *sigh* Foxtrot Bop (they all have terrible names like this) and we meet them on their way to their make or break gig. This is, to say the least, not a promising beginning. My tolerance levels for this garbage are measured in seconds rather than hours and I strongly considered tapping out right then and there.

Then a tornado whisks Scarlet Hood off to an Oz-like fantasy land and, save for a few unpleasant tootly moments on the repetitive soundtrack, the awful electro-swing band plot is abandoned. 

I’m not sure why a game designed to be replayed needs an unskippable 20-minute intro with no relevance to the rest of the story, but here we are.

Miraculously the quality starts climbing after the actual story begins. The game itself is a chilled out puzzle adventure with a couple of neat flourishes. Soon after Scarlet Hood crashes into a carriage she inadvertently becomes the new ‘Red Witch’ and promptly hooks up with a group of Munchkins who’re travelling through the titular Wicked Wood.

Standing in her way are various creatures and obstacles summoned by the Wicked Witch LeFaba whose word is law in these parts. You’re killed over and over again: though a time-looping spell sends you back to the start of the day and lets you work out how to cheat death. 

In a nice twist you choose how to go about this: your options ranging from helping a potential companion, discovering a shrine to power you up, or “subverting” each situation. These all involve different puzzles and lead towards different endings.

The focus of the game proves to be puzzling, and most of it hits the spot. Many rely on environmental observation with a dash of lateral thinking, and I found myself taking physical notes and snapping photos of the screen with my phone for later reference. There’s nothing brain-bendingly tough here, with the hardest taking 5-10 minutes to solve.

The one exception came in a relatively late puzzle involving ghost dodos and a graveyard. Here it wasn’t that I couldn’t figure out the solution, but that I had no idea what the game even wanted me to do and had to get a hint from a walkthrough. There are also a smattering of timing-based puzzles that are far too finicky - though at least you get unlimited tries.

All this began to add up into a good time, banishing the memory of the opening section as I delved into the brainteasers and gradually forged through the game. 

The writing is fine, the game has impressively detailed art and no one section outstays its welcome. There is theoretically combat and enemies, but it’s so ridiculously easy to avoid it may as well not be there.

There is one big fly in the ointment. The game locked up multiple times on loading screens and doesn’t autosave, necessitating a complete restart from your last manual save (which can only be done at save points). The first time this happened I lost about twenty minutes of gameplay - after that I saved at every available opportunity.

Ordinarily, I’d give the developers the benefit of the doubt and assume this was something on my end, but a glance at the discussion board indicates it’s a common issue. The game was patched for stability midway through my playthrough, but sadly this didn’t stop the crashing. The freezes aren’t game-ruining, but saving often is mandatory.

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