Red Goddess: Inner World on PC
As the likely frontrunner for most prolific genre in gaming, adventure games that are solidly-built and enjoyable can often be hard for players to find. Every now and again, though, something like Red Goddess: Inner World pops up. While it may not be a perfect creation, this tale of lost memories and ancient gods stands out against the multitude and creates something unique and interesting. Focusing on a young goddess named Divine, Red Goddess takes us through the mind of its protagonist, touching on the mysteries of her past and painful memories that lurk there.
Red Goddess: Inner World begins with some explanation of events now locked in the past. Told in vague terms, the story is left mostly to unfold as players make their way through the world. All that’s revealed at the onset is that, long ago, something happened to the balance maintained by the gods. Haunted by the hazy memories of that day, Divine has been left alone to drift through the cosmos until finally arriving at her “inner world”, the planet that is born from her own mind. Here, she will explore the depths of her memories and seek the truth of what befell her mother and father on that fateful day.
Despite her status as a goddess, Divine begins Red Goddess in a weakened state, her powers diminished from the time she’s spent floating through the universe. Players will have to work hard to uncover the relics that unlock her true potential and reveal the mysteries of the past. While much of the story is given voice by the mysterious narrator or by the ghostly figures of Divine’s past, each of the relics collected takes players back to a scene from the day that altered Divine’s life, giving a short demonstration of the new power before returning to the present.
What makes Red Goddess: Inner World stand out isn’t any one thing, but a collection of things. A beautiful and detailed world, brought to life by developer Yanim Studios’ background in animation, sets the stage. Smooth, responsive controls help players navigate this gorgeous landscape, and the story breathes life into it. While some of the game’s writing feels a bit stiff or disjointed, I chalked this up to translation more than anything, and it’s not enough of an issue to distract from the tale it weaves. Perhaps I’m a bit forgiving here, but growing up on much poorer translations in my games has left me able to look past the occasional grammatical slip-up or curious phrasing.
If I had to identify a weak point in Red Goddess, it would be a lack of innovation in gameplay. While it’s put together well and the story lends a unique angle, the basic structure and mechanics are pretty familiar. Divine’s growing powers include genre staples such as wall jumps, double jumps, and increased combat abilities, which don’t exactly break new ground in the world of action-adventure. The combat system, while pretty simplistic, does have a twist to make it interesting, however. By donning the mask of her own Rage or Fear, Divine can transform into a powerful creature that can face down the game’s many foes.
By taking on one of the two combat forms of Red Goddess, Divine gets some pretty solid fighting skill. Basic attack combos, an enemy-launching uppercut, and a skillful dodge-roll round out the basics. Interestingly, since the enemies inhabiting her inner world are manifestations of her own dark thoughts, they also take on one of either Rage or Fear, shown as red and blue hues respectively. Each of these can only be harmed by the matching combat form, so switching quickly between these during combat becomes essential. It can be tough to keep things straight when battling multiple baddies at once, but most of the time it flows pretty naturally as players get the hang of things.
Since it’s a pretty straightforward action-adventure in terms of gameplay, Red Goddess: Inner World relies on its storytelling to set it apart. As I mentioned before, this is held back a bit by some writing issues, but the plot itself is very well-constructed. Quite a bit is told through flashbacks to an attack on Divine’s home, but as more of these pieces fall into place, things really take shape. Even the game’s narrator becomes a factor as the tale unfolds, and Divine must come to terms with the unreliable nature of her own memory as she seeks to piece together the events that shattered her life.
Themes of betrayal, lies, and finding the truth within oneself are woven throughout, and players will find themselves doubting much of the early story as they progress. This unique and imaginative device keeps things interesting, and means that twists may pop up at any time that not only carry the story forward, but shed new light on the events of the past.
Red Goddess may lack a touch of the polish that players find from big-budget, AAA games, but it more than makes up for this with what it offers. Gorgeous lands to explore, artful storytelling, and well-designed controls come together to forge a great experience.
Releasing September 1 on Steam, I’d highly recommend the title to nearly anyone, and if PC gaming isn’t your thing, Yanim Studios plans to bring the title to Wii U and PlayStation Vita in early 2016. If you’re a fan of the genre, while you may not find anything truly innovative in the actual gameplay, the story and all-around design makes it more than worth a look. Challenging and rewarding, Red Goddess: Inner World is one that I think has slipped under the radar despite some excellent potential.