When it comes to indie game development, mixing genres is a method that always produces interesting results. Red Goddess combines melee combat, exploration, platforming, and some light puzzle-solving in a fascinating world that's fused together with beautiful storytelling. There's no denying how intriguing that sounds, but does it all add up to a worthwhile game?
Red Goddess: Inner World stars a goddess named Divine who is thrust into a world that's actually inside of her. Throughout the journey, you'll wonder what's real and who you can trust as you listen to a mysterious narrator provide much appreciated context. Many flashbacks occur where Divine uncovers parts of her memory, and during them you'll learn an array of unique abilities that allow you to progress further in your adventure to discover the truth. This is a refreshing way to introduce new gameplay mechanics as well as a great tangible representation of the story. Divine eventually gains the ability to personify her darkest emotions by transforming into Rage and Fear. This mechanic works like Ikaruga's colour-swapping where Rage is red and Fear is blue and you can only harm similarly coloured enemies. Overall, Red Goddess ties gameplay and plot effectively to create a cohesive experience from start to finish.
In the graphics department, Red Goddess' environments appear as if they're living dioramas. This further makes the story come alive as it presents it in an easily digestible format. Besides these distinct environments, the characters are rendered rather small yet they're animated fluidly enough to stand out from the backgrounds. The soundtrack is composed of subtle and quiet ambient pieces that offer a layer of mystery to every moment. Divine grunts and puffs as she fights enemies and jumps around which definitely makes her more lively, although when she's transformed as Rage or Fear she sounds like a man with a deeper tone and that just seems out of place. On the plus side, the narrator does a fantastic job of keeping the plot interesting with his soothing and engaging inflection. Sound effects add satisfaction to both the combat and platforming with every occurrence being represented accurately.
It's time to discuss the gameplay. Unfortunately, this is the area where Red Goddess needs the most improvement. Combat consists of mostly mashing the attack button while rolling out of harm's way with the right stick. There are a couple of other controls that use some of your magic meter such as executing a stronger attack or shooting a fireball that allows you to possess an enemy. Where the combat falls apart is in its inherent frustration. When the screen is crowded with enemies, it's easy to get knocked down to the ground repeatedly while you desperately struggle to stay on your feet long enough to be able to attack. When you combine this with the stiff controls, you'll quickly feel like giving up even the simplest of encounters. That being said, having to transform into Rage and Fear on the fly to take out specific enemies is a pretty cool dynamic.
Sadly, Red Goddess also disappoints when it comes to platforming. Exploring the game world to find enough crystals to proceed can be a rewarding endeavor, but there are way too many segments that are punishingly difficult. Over the course of the campaign, Divine gains the ability to double jump, hover, dash in the air, and use telekinetic powers to move platforms. All of this sounds great on paper, but stringing together perfectly executed moves to work past seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be incredibly dispiriting. This is especially true when faced with objects that move with a timer. For example, you may be faced with a rotating platform that has spikes on one side while a laser in front of it deactivates temporarily. These more often than not aren't in sync so waiting until the perfect time to advance will get on your nerves almost immediately. If they moved in tandem then there would be no problem.
Finally, there are many technical issues that plague Red Goddess to the point where your enjoyment will greatly suffer. The most noteworthy problem is the long load times. When you're faced with one of the previously mentioned difficult platforming segments, you can die within seconds but then you have to wait through a 30 second load screen to try again. Besides this, the graphics pop in constantly and frequent slowdown and choppiness gets so bad that making a simple jump can make the screen pause for seconds at a time. I also encountered glitches such as Divine being stuck in a frame of animation where she slid on her bum everywhere for a good 15 minutes and a couple of times the last boss just wouldn't emerge. The developer is currently working on a patch to fix some of these issues, but how much will be fixed remains to be seen. I hope they end up resolving all of these issues soon.
Red Goddess: Inner World excels in its storytelling and unorthodox setting. However, although it's definitely playable and even satisfying at times, it's a game that I can't easily recommend due to plenty of difficult to ignore gameplay and technical issues.
- + Intriguing storytelling combines with the upgrade system in a unique way
- + Wonderful diorama-like environments
- + Rage and Fear mechanic is pretty cool
- - Combat and platforming manages to feel tedious, unsatisfying, and infuriating
- - Long load times, graphics popping in, glitches, and choppy slowdown incessantly occur