Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, Review - Games Weekly

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries, Review

Darker takes on fairy tales may be en vogue at the minute, thanks to the likes of Once Upon a Time and Grimm on TV, but in games they’re nothing new. American McGee’s Alice came out in 2000, for instance, making it potentially older than some of you reading this. Belgian developer GriN’s Woolfe has precedence in the medium.

There are some flourishes in its take, like the almost pulp noir vibe, as this vengeance-fuelled teen assassin version of Red investigates the deaths of her parents. Similarly, the recasting of the big, bad wolf as corrupt, sadistic business mogul B.B. Woolfe works well, allowing for some veiled commentary on corporate malfeasance.

Despite these few twists on narrative formula, there’s no such innovation to be found in gameplay. Everything is serviceable, but there’s nothing you won’t have seen elsewhere. Red’s blend of stealth, acrobatics, and hack/slash attacks hold no surprises, nor do scripted chase sections where you flee enemies. Although a few power-up moves automatically unlock as you progress, gifting her with ground-slam and axe-throwing techniques amongst others, these too feel overly familiar and do little to elevate combat. Hammering the basic and heavy attack buttons to shred the sinister tin soldiers that police Woolfe’s domain will get you through most encounters. Even boss fights feel “been there, done that”. A giant rat in the sewers, summoned by an implied paedophilic Pied Piper, is bested with a yawn-inducing “dodge-avoid-activate switch” pattern, which was definitely in at least 12 games in the last week alone.

Still, it looks rather lovely; some where between a Candy Kingdom Christmas card and Gothic nightmare, depending on the section. It’s one of the better implementations of 2.5D aesthetics, with Red running in and out of fixed environments, occasionally in a race against the clock as some timed environmental puzzle demands you memorise layout and speed runthrough.

Weirdly though, for something with such strong European origins, all voiceover work is American. It’s more distracting than you’d think, particularly when uniquely US terminology makes its way into the script; like the Pied Piper being referred to as a“jock”.

Woolfe is short too, but Volume 2 will land in August, which accounts for the brevity, and its low price softens the blow further. Considering the minimal financial investment, this is a fine effort really: you’ll be briefly entertained, and there’s nothing too bad about the game. There’s just nothing that’s especially worth singing the praises of either.


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