Red’s Kingdom is an utterly gorgeous puzzle adventure game. In places, it’s a little repetitive and samey, but it’s quite hard to actively dislike it when it’s so charming and well made. In terms of its visuals and layout, it rarely skips a beat.
You play a young squirrel whose father has been kidnapped by the evil Mad King Mac. Alongside that, the golden nut has been taken and yes, you guessed it, you need to go retrieve it. The problem for Red is that he can only roll in a straight line. Once he starts rolling, he only stops when he hits a wall or obstacle. That means that you have to use your wits to help him negotiate various square shaped levels, eventually reaching the exit door. Acorns guide the way, giving you a rough heads up on where you need to go next, but that’s as far as hand holding goes.
Refreshingly, Red’s Kingdom doesn’t divide things up into levels. Instead, it’s a sprawling world of new areas and adventures. It gives you the sense that you’re exploring a much larger place than you probably really are. There’s a lovely sense of satisfaction when you first realize this. It also ensures that things open up wonderfully when you get to go outside and see more of the world, even if it’s far from a non-linear experience. There’s still a certain amount of backtracking involved, as you realize certain things can’t be solved until you do something else. Viewed from an isometric perspective, it’ll also remind you of puzzle games of days gone by. A quick swipe here or there has Red barreling down the screen until he bangs his head into something.
It’s as simple as that, but the trick here is figuring out what you can accomplish through such simplicity. It turns out the answer is quite a lot. As you progress, bouncing back and forth between pillars, you discover new things. Levers can be activated, while ramps can help you leap over things. Each new element is introduced in a way that makes you itching to experiment with them. Eventually, you gain a medallion that allows you to destroy pots. Such an introduction almost makes it feel like a Zelda game, but that’s more down to the stylings of Red’s Kingdom than anything. Unlike Nintendo’s hit, Red’s Kingdom relies a lot on trial and error, as well as experimentation, but that’s really quite satisfying too.
Combat also features, which mixes things up more than just rolling around, but it’s reasonably forgiving. You’re given a certain number of hearts giving you the perfect opportunity to mess up a few times without permanent suffering. Bear in mind though that falling down pits or into fire traps is just as bad, so those hearts will only last you so long.
After a time, the allure of Red’s Kingdom might wear off a little, but that’s probably because you’ve been playing too long. Suiting the mobile nature well, Red’s Kingdom is best enjoyed in short bursts. Spend too long with it, and you start to realize how repetitive it is. It’s never less than beautiful to look at, but there’s only so much swiping you can do before you begin to switch off and not quite enjoy the experience as you were before.