Simplicity really is a huge asset. Some of the best video games, particularly when it comes to puzzlers and indies, have succeeded on the merit of a single good idea — the frenetic block-stacking action of Tetris, for example, or those timeless hop-and-bop mechanics that the original Super Mario Bros made into an entire genre. iFun4all’s Red Game Without A Great Name follows the same principle, centering all its action on a very simple premise: you control a mechanical bird navigating one obstacle-filled level after another, and your only means of survival is the ability to teleport from one place to another by drawing a line. Thankfully, just as in other games of this sort, what starts as a fairly simple exercise quickly becomes downright diabolical thanks to superior level design and a commitment to brutal challenge — as the game’s motto “Fly, Die, Retry” indicates.
If you’ve played a game like this before, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Red Game Without A Great Name starts you off with a couple of easy-peasy levels designed to get you used to the game’s teleportation mechanic, then starts to build a repertoire of nasty obstacles and gimmicks sure to throw you off your groove. And as previously stated, iFun4all clearly has a bit of a sadistic streak: these levels want to kill you, and they only get more aggressive as you go on.
Here are just a few of the lovely traps you’ll run into: spiky windmills that rotate in different directions, forcing you to make a quick decision while also paying attention to their arc; sections of wall that snap shut to crush you, often laid out in multiple sets to create a timing challenge; and wind-blowing doohickeys that change the bird’s flight direction, an inconvenience that won’t undo itself until you hit another one.
Unsurprisingly, the 60 available levels also get longer as you go along, and the game offers up an additional challenge in the way of “gears” to collect — often located, of course, a bit off the beaten path. This, alongside the tempting pursuit of “no death” runs, will really tempt (and probably infuriate) completionists. If there’s one thing to gripe about, it’s that the collision detection doesn’t always feel spot-on — not that it ever becomes a huge problem in gameplay or anything, but there is a sense of inaccuracy sometimes when you teleport to the wrong side of an obstacle or appear just out of reach of that last gear. Again, though, things never get unfair as a result of this; if anything, it just proves how fatal haste can be in a game that really piles on the stress. Calm down, make sure you’ve lined up your path correctly and you’ll get where you want to go every time.
When it comes to presentation, indie titles are often subjected to unfair judgment in the visual department thanks to their finite budget (ew, pixels are so overdone, and so on). Keeping in mind those economic limitations, it’s all about finding a way to stand out: so Red Game Without A Great Name’s smartly pilfers the “silhouette” aesthetic that has appeared in previous independent gems like Limbo and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.
Just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean it’s run its course, though, and there’s no denying its effectiveness here: for one thing, the silhouettes do a tremendous job separating the foreground from the background; for another, the use of deep red gradients as a contrast to the black sprites really give this game a style all its own. As an added bonus, iFun4all’s worlds have been lovingly crafted with steampunk in mind, with towering gears and winding Victorian gates galore. After all, if you’re going to be dying over and over (and thus replaying the same levels), you might as well have something nice to look at!
Red Game Without A Great Name may lack a striking moniker, but it has plenty of chutzpah in the gameplay department. The game boldly declares its central, deceptively simple idea — teleportation by way of mouse-drawn lines — and frames this mechanic with diabolical level designs that aren’t afraid to send you to your death over and over again. Like fellow indie game Limbo, also well-known for its unforgiving ways of killing off the main character, Red Game opts for a simple silhouetted aesthetic that is pleasing to the eye. Better yet, it manages to squeeze in a great deal of steampunk influence, a visual style that comes through wonderfully even with a two-color palette to work with. It’s a credit to any game’s design when you don’t mind dying over and over, and this addictive little indie has that quality in spades.
This review is based on the PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Red Game Without A Great Name has a deceptively simple mechanic at its core, the exact sort that benefits from top-notch level design. Thankfully, the game also has plenty of that, alongside a dynamic "silhouetted" visual style heavily influenced by steampunk.