Have you ever had a great idea for a game, and could see no reason why it wouldn't work? Ask anyone who has to turn ideas into reality, it doesn't always work out that way. Ideas that work on paper aren't as viable in real-life. Songs that sound good when you hum them don't have the same feeling when you play them on an instrument. Even for a writer, I've had ideas for articles that didn't work out because the ideas I had in my head didn't quite work out on paper. Now, sometimes these ideas still get pursued to completion. I'm not going to put words in Cobra Mobile's mouth as to Red's Kingdom [$2.99], but it certainly feels like an idea that someone had that was really cool, and I liked it too! Combine sliding puzzles with a Zelda-style adventure with upgrades to collect? Sounds like it has potential! But at least for myself, and in this particular format, it does not work.

Red's Kingdom is a sliding puzzle game, where you swipe to move protagonist Red in a diagonal direction to roll that way until a wall or object is hit. There are familiar puzzles, where you have to hit switches and roll using objects and tricks to get to where you need to go. The trick is that this all takes place in one giant interconnected world. Much like a Zelda or Metroidvania game, there are certain parts of the world that are inaccessible until you collect certain objects. You also get upgrades that help out with the enemies that you'll face in Red's Kingdom. It's all a genius concept on paper: sliding puzzles are fun to play with, and you combine them with the satisfaction of exploring a world and getting upgrades. Seems like a winning combo, but the problem in large part is that sliding puzzles work really well in a particular context of being self-contained, where in a larger world, Red's Kingdom fails to address adequately.

Red's Kingdom doesn't work as a game that you can come back to after a while. See, many of these puzzles require very particular solutions for how you have to move around, especially to avoid getting stuck. You can reset a room, but can't undo a specific move if you get stuck. I like sliding-style puzzles, but a lot of the satisfaction is in figuring out the particular solution once and for all, possibly returning to get a more optimal one. In the context of Red's Kingdom, these puzzles are less fun to play when you're forced to backtrack, as you're exploring a world, not just solving puzzles. Some collectables are part of the puzzle, so you don't have to go through all the intricacies of a room repeatedly, but you'll have to figure out how various switches work again. So, picking up the game, especially if you quit while backtracking, can be annoying, as you can't just get your bearings and find your way to the next objective, you have to solve puzzles over again.

One possible solution would be for an easy way to move between rooms that you've already beaten. Right now, having to re-solve rooms in order to navigate the world gets to be quite annoying. I solved these puzzles once, why do I have to go through and do them again? It's a bit aggravating, in particular when you pick the game back up after a while and just want to get to something new. Sure, this is something you have to deal with in pretty much any open-world game, but at least there, the act of retracing your steps is just mere tedium, and there are warps in Red's Kingdom. But you have to instead work your way back through rooms you've solved already to get to those warps. Heck, even if warps were accessible from anywhere by the player, that would go a long way toward helping out with the annoyance factor.

Now, this might all be less of an issue if you're the type of person that plays games in one sitting. This is a good enough game to sit down with on an iPad on a couch on a Saturday afternoon. Just keep at it, and you'll likely have a good enough time. Granted, you can play this on Mac and PC if you prefer, and this game might be better there. But we're talking about mobile gaming, a platform where stop and start play is a huge part of its raison d'être. I have significant issues with how Red's Kingdom is structured, and it puts a severe damper on whatever enjoyment I can wring from the game.

The 2D and isometric perspective of Red's Kingdom has some issues. The isometric perspective looks great, but it can make it tough to line up the proper line you're going in, as you have to correct for the angle. The rooms are somewhat large, so it can be tough to tell the line you're on, even on an iPad. There are some helpful lines especially with indoor rooms, but there's another issue that arises. You can have certain spots obscured by scenery or objects, and because the game is 2D from a fixed perspective, you have no way to see around these spots. The music in Red's Kingdom is fine at first, but it winds up being extremely repetitive. I wound up muting it and listening to my own music instead, because the primary track that plays grows too grating.

Red's sliding is a bit on the slow side, which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for some timed puzzles where you have to make lightning-quick maneuvers to get Red to a spot triggered by a switch. If Red would get with the program and roll a lot faster, it wouldn't be a problem. But it felt like on a few occasions I had to execute some lightning-fast maneuvers just to hit a narrow timing window. It's not exactly fun to do that, especially when these might pop up in parts during transit through the world to find items.

It's all a shame because I really want to like Red's Kingdom. I still like the concept, as sliding puzzle games are just collections of single-level vignettes, and this game transcends that. When you dig into it, and get going with the flow of the game, there's the spark of something brilliant and fun. And Red's Kingdom is gorgeous to look at it. But the flaws are deep, that it's tough to recommend despite its great looks and creative ideas.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarNoneNone
  • houseofg

    Entirely valid and shared criticisms, but I don't regret buying this one at all, even has someone who has to play it in short bursts. QoL changes would be MUCH appreciated!

    • houseofg

      *even AS

  • ROGER-NL

    I would have given the game 5 stars because I loved playing it, but on youtube I saw some people who had problems with the game about the puzzles and timers, I would advice those players to play something else, enough games out there.

  • metalcasket

    Spot-on review. I was absolutely enamored with this for the first couple of hours I played it, but all the flaws mentioned in the review started popping up the more I played. It was also impossible to get back into the flow of things after putting the game down for a week. Shame though..it really is a brilliant concept.

  • GiHubb

    I have to politely disagree completely with this review (but of course we are all allowed different opinions, part of the fun in this game of life). The back tracking problem Carter mentions is mostly for completionists - I played to a 80% finish score and didn't need to back track any puzzles and kept moving forward. I'm not a fan of puzzle games at all, but I loved this! Easily my favorite iOS game of the year so far.

    • Far_Out

      Thanks for this note . . . the mention of backtracking was killing this for me, but if it's nit required, that's a whole different story, cause I think it looks great!

  • Jinxtah

    I'll have to agree with this assessment. I'm currently playing through the game, and have done quite a bit of backtracking to get all the nuts and break new pots etc. It's fairly annoying to have to solve each room every single time just to get back to wherever you were before you started backtracking.

    Other than that though, I really like this game, and can see myself playing it on/off for a good while to come. I just hope these issues won't be a major pain down the road.

  • OrangutanKungfu

    Excellent review, with wholly valid criticisms, especially with regards to re-solving puzzles to backtrack and the occasional awkwardness of the isometric view. That said, the polish is so high, it's got to be worth four stars for me. I can see myself running out of steam before the end, though.

  • Pepelutin

    Just finished it yesterday, it was a pleasure to play every part of the game. Sometimes it was a bit tricky to know what i was supposed to do, but after a while i was playing again. Now i'm at 96%. Easily game of the month for me, maybe GOTY, we'll see.
    3 stars is hard. I understand, but it's very low!

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp
      • dancj

        You know links don't work - or get fully shown in the app?

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        App traffic is minuscule these days. 🙁

      • dancj

        Possibly shrinking to nothing with iOS 11 🙁

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Almost assuredly!

      • GiHubb

        I'm loving the app and use it daily! (even though it might slow down my phone, ha!)

      • houseofg

        That's amazing to hear. I literally never use the website.

      • wtphug

        Same here. I find the app, warts and all, so much nicer to use than the website.

      • skylined87

        Me too, even if I can't click links lol... love the app

      • Pepelutin

        I can't read your opinion because links doesn't work for me, i don't know why. Maybe you want to tell me that it's normal for someone to have a different point of view from a game? I understand, that's why i'm reading TA since a lot of years, but like another reader said, 3 stars is such a bad score, normally for bad games, badly coded and poorly made.
        I'm just surprised. There is so much love in this one. Visuals are incredibles, music remains in mind during the day, and playing is so comfortable! But i respect other opinions, for sure.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        No, our review scoring scale is totally different from what most people assume. Google "why toucharcade loves everything" and you should find an article titled "Editor's Notes: How Our Review Scoring Scale Works, and Why 'TouchArcade Loves Everything'." It will explain a lot.

      • Pepelutin

        Thanks, i'll check it today.

  • cadillackills

    Respectfully disagree with some of the comments, but to each their own. I think that as avid iOS gamers we are taking a lot for granted for a $2 game that gives us a great experience. I'm not saying this is a Zelda replacement but I've enjoyed hours of gameplay. Funny writing and great art style pushed this one into my favorites. Again not knocking anyone's reviews or opinions but it's less than a coffee, or a pint...for a great simple puzzle game. Cheers!

  • skylined87

    Wow, the TouchArcade game of the month gets 3 stars? I can definitely understand the issues that were mentioned in the article, but this game deserves at least 4, but I would say 4.5. The game is amazing, and if they were to fix some of the things the article mentioned it is a 5 star game for sure. I don't know...I've just seen so many games get 4.5 and 5 stars that were good, but still had their share of issues as well. The review is fair, but the rating is a bit harsh in my opinion. I know this game got a bad rap because of the price drop drama during launch week, and the issues mentioned in the article should probably be addressed; but the amount of joy and fun that this game brought to the table is worth much more than 3 stars for me. Everyone is entitled to their opinion though, just my 2 cents....

  • nhojuhc

    A game that's is rated 3/5 or 60% in the PC game realm is generally an unmitigated disaster with heavy bugs, poor AI, and playability issues like clipping or getting stuck in objects or walls. This is hardly the case with Red's kingdom. If it's not your cup of tea, that is fine. But do consider that you just punished the developer sales for something that tickled you the wrong way. I don't like puzzle games but I found this game interesting enough to pick up and play casually. In that regard, it performed flawlessly.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp
      • nhojuhc

        Eli, just because red's kingdom got posted as game of the week or game of the month, doesn't change my opinion that this reviewer's assessment is flawed. 3/5 is implying the game works fine in the early stages and then breaks down in later parts to be almost unplayable.

      • nhojuhc

        Most people would assume the "newer" updated article would take precedence over an older article.

      • Mince0

        Yeah 3 stars to me means not worth your time it just Ok.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        Quite literally the first paragraph of every game of the week post since we started doing them 3.5 years ago:

        "The idea behind the TouchArcade Game of the Week is that every Friday afternoon we post the one game that came out this week that we think is worth giving a special nod to. Now, before anyone goes over-thinking this, it doesn't necessarily mean our Game of the Week pick is the highest scoring game in a review, the game with the best graphics, or really any other quantifiable "best" thing. Instead, it's more just us picking out the single game out of the week's releases that we think is the most noteworthy, surprising, interesting, or really any other hard to describe quality that makes it worth having if you were just going to pick up one."

        I also recommend reading the article I linked if you don't understand how our scoring system works.

  • runliketurtles

    I can easily see getting frustrated if you try to 100% the game, and maybe because I played over the course of only a few days I didn't have the same experience, but I thought this game was great and can't wait for additional updates

  • HelperMonkey

    I'd go along with this score.
    It's a beautifully made game, beautifully presented. Charming.
    I just didn't have much fun playing it.

  • lethal interjection

    I'm surprised to see such a critical review of a game so many people enjoyed, myself included. The main critique of not wanting to re-solve puzzles is somewhat understandable. For me though, most of the puzzles really weren't that hard, especially if your only concern is making it to the next room, so I was never annoyed by it. As others have mentioned, you shouldn't have to backtrack that much when just completing the story, unless you do a poor job navigating and don't consult the map and your objective's location enough.

    The reviewer makes it sound like getting stuck is common, but I never got stuck in a room and had to reset, and I've 100% completed the game. The devs seemed to put a lot of care into the room designs to make sure you can solve it no matter what corner you back yourself into. I think the reviewer just gave up too easily.

    The isometric perspective complaints are curious. Even if you can't follow a line with your eyes to see where you'll roll, you can hold on the screen and directional dotted lines appear as a visual guide. There's also not an issue with important or dangerous things being completely obscured as a result of this view. Perhaps a portion of a wall behind a pillar, or a harmless block to bump into.

    As for the need for lightning quick maneuvers, I recall 2 rooms that required multiple danger-free attempts to be fast enough through sheer speed, even if you know exactly what moves to make. There's probably hundreds of rooms in the game.

    The arguments brought against this game seem rushed to judgement, uninformed, and trivial at times. The real shame is that this particular reviewer covered this wonderful game.

    • ROGER-NL

      Very well spoken, could not say it better. I have nothing against Carter or anybody in this world, but this game is chosen Game of the Month by the TA community, so you should consider that the least, I see many crappy games that get 5 star reviews from TA that I don't wanna play even if they were completely free, so this is no bonding with the members this is just how you scare them away and look some place else.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        But this is a review of Carter's experience, doesn't it seem a little weird to soft ball a review or change your conclusions of your play through because some people on the forums like it? Having a different opinion on a video game is totally a-OK. Personally, I'm not sure I'd want to read a site where they're giving dishonest reviews, that's how you'd scare me off.

      • ROGER-NL

        Okay point taken, I always feel bad for devs. who put in a lot of work and make something unique and than comes TA and says 3 stars ha ha, to me that's a bit unfair, but I am very gentle about games I like, there not always as good as I sometimes say, but I wanna help an indie studio or a one man dev., is this wrong what I do, please tell me. I really like TA it has become a part of my life, I am everyday 2 hours on the app, I would even pay 10 Euro a month if it was easy implemented to pay.

      • Mince0

        I agree that it is Carters experience and unfortunate it was not too his liking. May I suggest when a game that is well received by the TA community ( game of the month or week) but disliked by a single reviewer it could be worth re reviewing by someone else to clarify their dislikes are not their own issues with the game

        My disagreement with a 3 star review is this actually being a well received game for the majority of players a

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        What if I told you Carter's concerns were shared by multiple members of the TA staff?

      • boydstr

        Diversity is the spice of life.

  • sobriquet

    Are you doing a review for Slayaway Camp, Carter? That seems to be the game for those who got worn out on Red's. At least that's me take on the Slayaway Camp thread.

    • http://about.me/wondroushippo Carter Dotson

      I am reviewing it, yes. And yeah...that's been my experience so far with Slayaway.

  • OrangutanKungfu

    Is Red's Kingdom the Limbo of 2017?

  • NaughtHere

    I don't usually comment on stuff like this, but this writing seems pretty bad.

    "Even for a writer, I've had ideas for articles that didn't work out because the ideas I had in my head didn't quite work out on paper. Now, sometimes these ideas still get pursued to completion. I'm not going to put words in Cobra Mobile's mouth as to Red's Kingdom[$2.99], but it certainly feels like an idea that someone had that was really cool, and I liked it too!"

    To paraphrase: Even for a writer, he's had ideas. Some of his ideas didn't work out because they didn't work out. The ideas that didn't work out sometimes get completed anyway. (??) He's not going to imply the developer thought their own idea was cool, but he also liked the idea.

    Usually the writing here is good, but this article really stood out.

Red's Kingdom Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 3