Red Goddess: Inner World is the latest in the genre of ĎMetroidvaniaí - coined from the amalgamation of Metroid and the
Castlevania series approach to videogame design. Unfortunately Red Goddess: Inner World isnít a strong example of this
design philosophy and itís suffering from some real technical issues on the PlayStation 4.
In Red Goddess: Inner World you play a girl named Divine - who as the game title implies is a goddess - unfortunately Divine is suffering
from amnesia, and in order to recover her lost memories, she delves deep into her own subconsciousness. What this produces is a lush, beautiful landscape
for you to traverse, and itís clear to see where developer Yanim Studios skills reside, with the studioís background firmly in the CG digital realm.
The 3D character models, textures and scenery are all well executed, even the animations convey great on screen. The lighting effects likewise really set
the mood for the games various locations, from the cheerier tones of villages and forests to the more sinister caves underground - a beautiful touch I
personally liked was the various crystals scattered around acting as mirrors for your reflection.
Where Red Goddess: Inner World also works is in its narration. Whilst the game follows the journey of Divine to regain her lost
memories, the person commenting on her - and in part your own - actions throughout, remains a mystery, at least until the end game; in the meantime
leaving you pondering about just what is really happening within this world. Sadly visuals and the novel way the game displays narration are the games
only standout moments, for a title ultimately held back by puzzling design questions and what feels like a little too much for smalll 6-man team of Independent developers in
Yanim Studio to take on so early, especially for a title that started its life as a Kickstarter project.
The key to using any game design philosophy is figuring out what is fun about it in the first place - then taking those elements, amalgamating and
improving upon them if possible. Red Goddess: Inner World fails in that area, not utilising the open-ended space of its continuous and
connected level design to its fullest. Rather than feeling like a vast 2D world to explore with traversal of areas only limited by the items you currently
have unlocked - it instead showcases a linear experience - you never really go anywhere that Red Goddess: Inner World doesnít want you to
go, and if you do go off the beaten path thereís nothing to find. Red Goddess: Inner World could just as easily have been cut up into
individual levels or stages, in fact that would have likely solved some of the technical problems it suffers with - but more on that later.
Thereís also the glaring absence of any kind of fast-travel system, when you are deep into the game in one of its many caves - locked behind doors that
require a growing number of keys - itís pointless going anywhere but forward, as going back on your path is just as much work as continuing on -
and like previously mentioned, the game offers you no reasons to go back - other than some unlockable skins thereís really no extra content for
your growing set of powers to be unleashed upon.
Red Goddess: Inner World will likely have you tearing your hair out and youíll be going bald if you manage to slog through the pain -
and we havenít even touched the combat mechanics yet. You start off the game with some light platforming, itís simple enough at first involving the
usual moving ledges and jumping from platform to platform. But itís when the game introduces its growing amount of obstacles that platforming simply
stops becoming remotely fun - you see everything is out to kill you in Red Goddess: Inner World; thorns, spikes, death traps and lava
pits - the problem is everything is is a one-hit kill - in fact it all started giving me nightmares of the underwater level in
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES, and yes the hitbox of these obstacles is similarly poor.
Add to this the extra long load times for every
death of at least 20-30 seconds, means youíll be spending a lot of time staring at your screen in frustration. And it getís worse as
Red Goddess: Inner World progresses, with the end-game turning into some kind of Super Meat Boy homage of death with you having to
use wall jumping, gliding, super jumps and transformations all in quick succession - it just plainly doesnít flow with the type of game itís aiming to be.
Speaking of transformations, Red Goddess: Inner World employs a system - like Ubisoftís own Metrodvania title
Outland before it - wherein you can switch Divine between two different states. A red entity (representing Rage) and a blue one
(representing Fear), with a human form Divine being your neutral form; these two states are mainly for combat purposes, though there are a few
blocked paths which require you to be in a particular state. The main issue with them is they are practically identical to each other -
minus a skinswap - most of the time you will be using Divine to traverse the world, but due to some inexplicable reason her powers donít carry over
into the two alternate forms, even entering rooms or interacting with objects - so whenever enemies pop-up it requires you to hit either the L1 or R1 buttons on your Dualshock 4 controller,
as neutral form Divine is practically useless against the evil foes.
Red Goddess: Inner World also tried to include a colour code mechanic for enemies, intending for you to select a particular persona
and defeat it with the correct colour. Unfortunately not only did Outland do it better, but in Red Goddess: Inner World
it doesnít really work at all - being able to defeat enemies with either persona regardless, the only caveat is it takes longer.
But youíll want to get through any combat situation as quick as possible, because itís quite a slog. Red Goddess: Inner World is a very
unpolished game to say the least, but the combat is its biggest culprit - itís fundamentally broken and not fun at all to engage in.
Youíll find that you will only have a single combo attack, which if you can manage to hit the enemies - once again sloppy hitboxes - you can just repeat
it endlessly in a looped animation - and even then the enemies take a while to die, or they may just decide to become invincible on a whim and attack you,
Not to worry though, the endless loop animations can also work against you, getting knocked down ad-infinitum, being unable to recover is
a regular occurrence in Red Goddess: Inner World - why the team released the combat in this state, I have no idea. And then for good measure
itíll throw a boss battle at you (if you havenít already thrown your PlayStation 4 out the window by now of course) which are the definition of redundant.
Itís the same thing over and over; hit the enemy's weak spot (a crystal on its body) and repeat for 50 times, to say combat is unbalanced in this game is
an understatement - itís pure tedium. Not to worry though if you die, you get to watch a loading screen and partake in it all over again.
Polish is a reality Red Goddess: Inner World is lacking in all areas, with it visually manifesting itself in the technical problems it has
on the PlayStation 4. Even after a patch, the game is downright buggy, textures and objects take longer than they should to stream on-screen and your game will
likely crash, causing you to re-load from the last checkpoint.
There is also no D-Pad support for the retro gamers out there and in fact youíll find no
options menu at all. In every aspect Red Goddess: Inner World feels like a game half done and judging from the initial Kickstarter
pitch, has gone through quite a lot of design changes from concept to what we have ended up with here.
It would of done Red Goddess: Inner World a Ďworldí of good, to trim the fat and focus on just a few mechanics,
instead it seemingly tries to throw everything into a melting pot with nothing coming out edible. Itís a shame as Yanim Studio clearly have an
affinity for the visual aspects of game design and with a bit of focus in the right direction Red Goddess: Inner World would of atleast
been serviceable, instead itís a game you canít really recommend to anyone and nor should you.
There are much better games employing the Metroidvania design structure correctly,
that are worth your time and are polished, playable and most of all fun.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.