""This is no fairytale – there is nothing fair about it” – Ain’t that the truth?"
Woolfe - The Red Hood Diaries tries hard, it really does. It boasts a lovely Danny Elfman style soundtrack, decent stylised visuals and a solid enough game concept, but I think that’s where it should have stayed, as a concept, because in practice, Woolfe falls short at every hurdle.
Yes, as I’ve already said, the music is pleasant, the game looks nice enough, and even some of the dialogue and flavour text is well done, but the gameplay on offer here is pitiable.
As a platformer, Woolfe is subpar: floaty controls, poor hit detection on platforms and terrible conveyancing of stage layout – this game has a nasty habit of making you think an area is accessible only for you to die trying to reach it. The 2.5D perspective is interesting and makes for one or two visually pleasing scenes, but adds very little to the overall gameplay and indeed makes the already weak platforming sections more frustrating than they should be. The platforming on offer is bland, predictable and floaty – what mild challenge there is comes from poorly conveyed layouts and cheap deaths due to terrible hit detection. The one saving grace is the inclusion of hidden symbols which unlock diary entries and trivia – this was a passable feature and felt very ‘PS1-era’platformer in its implementation.
The combat here is even worse, and one of the weakest systems I’ve seen in an action game. You have two attacks, a flurry of light strikes and a single heavy chop. The light attack animation is horribly janky and leaves an obnoxious glowing trail after each swing, while the heavy chop is clunky and dull with little combo potential. Magical power attacks are gained throughout the game and make battles against multiple enemies a little easier, but again they are clunky, slow and uninteresting. Nothing about the combat system in Woolfe is engaging and does nothing to reward you – there are no upgrades, no combos, no timed blocks or parries, just…nothing fun. Enemies don’t have weak spots or different attacks, they’re all the same and they’re all boring. Each enemy encounter is a chore and when you can sneak past them, you should do so, if only to save yourself the headache of actually having to fight. A stealth takedown would have been appreciated too, but, no such luck.
While graphically the game is pretty solid, and not something to complain about at all, it is let down by lack of enemy variety (there are about 4) and poor animation quality. Most of the locales look nice and are reasonably diverse. However in such a short game it can be quite hard to cram in too many changes of scenery, so I’ll let that slide. The one aspect of Woolfe that I can wholeheartedly say I enjoyed was the sound design –strongly reminiscent of the Fable series’ quirky fairy-tale tone, the music is hands down the best thing about this game and ranges from melancholic, frozen city streets to bouncy Danny Elfman style chase music. The voice acting for ‘Red’ is also pretty solid and certain lines are delivered particularly well, often when talking wistfully of her past, but the quality is not sustained all the way through.
While the quality of writing is reasonably good, the story is convoluted and incomplete. We really learn very little that wasn’t alarmingly obvious by the end, and are left with a giant cliffhanger (though I believe a sequel is in the works). Ultimately though, I just didn’t care. Kudos for trying to revamp a classic fairy tale in a gothic style *cough* American McGee *cough*, but there isn’t enough meat to the story to make you feel invested. It’s poorly focused and decidedly average, which I think is the perfect description for this whole game.
What truly baffles me though, is that this game was crowdfunded, beta tested and had some degree of player involvement during its development – how did the game manage to release in this state with such a vested interest behind it? Were the backers of this game really content with something so painfully mediocre? Woolfe was clearly made with love, but sadly, not with expertise or consideration.
Overall, Woolfe is a tragic tale. I wanted to like this game, and was initially intrigued by early trailers, but it simply isn’t good. It attempts to combine platforming, combat, stealth and exploration and subsequently fails to make either individual aspect compelling or rewarding. The weak experience is compounded by bugs, janky animations and a painfully thin amount of shallow content. Despite a very nice soundtrack, Woolfe – The Red Hood Diary is little more than bundle fodder and acts simply as a cautionary tale of how not to make a game.
Community review by kingrat (October 27, 2016)
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