The world of indie games is one filled with intrigue. There’s games big and small, that range from the wildly popular to the nichest of the niche. Which means there is always something for everybody! If there’s one genre of indie games however, that we’re always excited to check out here at the Backlog Odyssey household, it’s indie horror. Those cheeky devs always seem to find ways to weave interesting concepts and mechanics into this time honored motif. To varying success of course, but you get what I mean.
Well, the up and coming indie developer Runic Codes hopes to wow us with their latest edition to the indie horror scene, Red Colony. The only question that remains though, is will it’s ecchi inspired themes keep us engaged, or will they distract us from its true potential?
Side scrolling, survival-horror games seem to be popping up quite frequently in the indie scene these days and I am in no way sad about that. It’s one of those genres that while at its core is a simple, straightforward concept, there is a potentially precarious balance of criteria that need to be met in order for these games to be deemed successful, at least by me anyway. Give me some good puzzles, interesting characters, and an engaging story and chances are good you’ll get a thumbs up from me.
Up until we were offered the opportunity to check out Red Colony before its release, I knew nothing about it! That’s also why I love indie games, because sometimes they can come out of the blue and blow you out of the water. So, when I saw that it was in fact a horror game with a touch of naughty fanservice, I jumped on that train in a heartbeat.
On top of that, I’ve always been fascinated with the juxtaposition between adult themes and horror. Both have the uncanny ability to make you uncomfortable, while at the same time laser focusing your attention so you can’t look away. You know the whole train-wreck thing. Nonetheless, when they come together, that’s truly magical. So, I was excited to see if Runic Codes was able to pull it off.
Now, before I start, I just want to let you know that although Red Colony does hint at the odd adult theme or two, it doesn’t actually feature anything that might be too risque for prying eyes. If you know what I mean. That being said, it tries really hard to get that M rating. I mean, every other word out of these people’s mouths is an f-bomb, zombies get chunks and limbs blown off when you attack them, and each and every character flaunts it like they’re going to lose it.
I also want to preface all of this with the fact that none of this really bothers me, in fact, it’s why I was interested in the first place. What does bother me though is Red Colony’s execution of these things. I mean, I see what the devs were going for, and I appreciate some aspects of it, but unfortunately in practice it all felt forced and unnatural. Luckily, like a good B-Horror movie, it was all absurd enough that you could still have a good time while celebrating its flaws.
Gameplaywise, Red Colony was actually decent in that regard. Sure, there was an unnatural obsession with keycodes, the puzzles weren’t exactly brain busters, and at no point did I feel challenged, but it wasn’t offensive either. I also really enjoyed the idea of using a 3D printer to craft your items and weapons, and substituted the “ink ribbon” save mechanic with a USB stick.
Let me start by saying that comparing Red Colony to a similar game from a bigger company would be unfair and I’ve no intention of doing so. That being said, I felt there was a very obvious lack of quality assurance when it came to what I experienced playing through this game. There was a concerning amount of script and dialog errors that really has no justification for being there. The writing itself was fairly mediocre on its own and only made the experience worse. I mean, honestly the spelling and grammatical errors were quite glaring which hurt the game’s air of professionalism making it fall one step lower down the quality ladder. I get that this seems like a minor gripe in the grand scheme of things but in a genre where the story is one of THE most important aspects, encountering this type of oversight is just disappointing and will absolutely ruin that delectable sense of immersion.
Red Colony definitely had some very interesting mechanics to pride itself on however. I really liked the 3D printing of weapons and ammunition. I could absolutely see that mechanic being used on a larger scale in future games. Finding the proper components to make each weapon type was fun and it was really exciting to try out each new weapon. Also using a USB stick to save your game was very reminiscent of the ink ribbons from Resident Evil. It was a fun modern twist!
Something I wish had been different was the level of challenge presented in the game. We made it through the entire game start to finish and didn’t need to heal once. The zombies were very easily skirted and dispatched with just the knife. The puzzles offered no real variety and were all just entering various pin codes which were given to the player with little to no effort. One of my favorite things in survival horror games is pondering both the gameplay and story enigmas and unfortunately what Red Colony put forth was in short supply.
Aside from overhauling the entire script, and maybe suggesting an editor for their localization team, I’d say the biggest improvement this game could use would be a clearer indication of what items you are picking up when you encounter them. Following that thought, a more user friendly menu system would make all of the difference.
That being said, I did enjoy the concept of Red Colony, even if it did get a little weird near the end, and with a little work, I think the devs might actually have something!
Unfortunately however, I don’t think I could recommend Red Colony. Although it has potential, and there is some intrigue, as a whole the end product felt like it lacked polish. As a curiosity though, if you have a high tolerance for games that are not quite there, then you might be able to get a little fun out of it. Like I said, even the most dilettante B-movies can be fun with the right company. Being only 2.5 to 3 hours long, it isn’t too much of a time investment either.
I think Red Colony and it’s developers had some great ideas, where with just a bit of skill refinement they could eventually put out some really great games in the future. Regrettably though, Red Colony was just not one of them. I can’t in good conscience recommend this game even at its inexpensive price tag of $7. I can overlook the inconsistent artwork and simplified mechanics as these are all things that can be difficult for a small budget development company to fund or manage. The awkward writing and negligent editing on the other hand should be a given regardless of company size. For games like these the story element reigns supreme and Red Colony unfortunately wore its faults on its sleeve.
It’s really too bad when an indie game ends up not quite going the distance. We always hold out hope, because we know that it’s no small feat to make games, and there’s always a chance we could be blindsided with something incredible. Although Red Colony had potential, it just didn’t deliver, and with a little more work and a bit more quality assurance, Runic Codes might be able to surprise us in the future. Until then however, you might want to look elsewhere.
If you’re interested in checking out Red Colony, it’s available on January 18th, 2021 on the Nintendo Switch!