I’d seen the trailer, I’d seen the promos and yet I was still unprepared for Red’s Kingdom on Switch.
The game begins with the title character, a squirrel named Red sleeping soundly. During his slumber his fortune of nuts and his father is stolen by the King Squirrel who laughs maniacally as he takes what little our hero has. This opening cut scene takes little more than 20 seconds but sets up the course of the game perfectly.
The quest to retrieve the nuts is made more problematic by the fact that Red himself suffers from an odd disability whereby he is unable to walk normally, instead he rolls headlong until he hits an obstacle and then promptly stops; mercifully without injury. This is the real challenge of the game. Not only are you attempting to make your way through a series of challenges involving turning on switches, pressing buttons and opening treasure chests, but you have to accomplish this with perfect accuracy and aim based on the way in which Red moves. I have to say that I was disappointed with this. The characters are endearing, the levels are well designed but it all feels a bit staid, as though this was designed for mobile gamers and there was no thought given to how this would translate onto a home console.
Watch the Red’s Kingdom trailer below:
The levels are tiled which in itself is not a problem; many great platformers work on such a system. My issue with Red’s Kingdom was the way in which the camera angle affected the control. The viewpoint the player is given is from a slightly raised diagonal angle. This means that when you are trying to aim your rolls with the use of the Switch joystick it can become frustrating. I can’t count the number of times that I inadvertently rolled back where I’d come from or in a completely wrong direction as a result of this issue. There have been plenty of Switch ports where the control of the original was not affected by the change from button to joystick, I have for example, recently been enjoying again the Megaman games following their transition to Switch. In these games which were originally designed for buttons the joystick does nothing but improve the general control. The fundamental difference between these games and Red’s Kingdom is the point of view. This is a major drawback from me and one which was barely made up for by the rest of the game.
I wasn’t expecting much by way of storyline or character development but what I got was far less than even that. The characters are cute, no doubt, but beyond that it was difficult to become involved in any way in their plight or in their world. As a result of the control this game felt more like Kula World than Legend of Zelda and I don’t mean that in a positive sense. The few cut scenes that the player is treated to are languid and without personality. They bring little by way of additional information or threat and serve only to break up the fairly monotonous gameplay. To say I was disappointed with this aspect would be an understatement.
View some screenshots from Red’s Kingdom in our gallery:
Graphically, Red’s Kingdom has a lot going for it. The landscapes, levels and general feel is charming. It is well rendered, in keeping with the nature of the story and lends itself well to a tiled style of gameplay. The way the game looks and the way the levels feel in terms of atmosphere were very good and went quite a long way to making up for the failings in control and storyline. Each level is distinct, each stage has its own style and musical accompaniment. This was a genuinely pleasant aspect of the game.
Overall, I was really disappointed with Red’s Kingdom. The gameplay felt tired from the first moment of play, the storyline was essentially non-existent and the control was hampered by poor choices with regard to player viewpoint. I also didn’t enjoy the way in which the player controls Red. The idea of a character who moves and cannot stop until they hit an obstacle is an interesting way to play but I really don’t feel like it should be the entire game. If you want a game to bring appropriate challenge and control to a character who can’t stop moving, just visit the Johto Ice Path instead, it would have been better had the developer visited this kind of example for inspiration on how to make this system work well. Elements of puzzle solving were waylaid by the game’s fundamental flaws.
I’m sorry Red, but I wouldn’t recommend other people come along on your quest with you.