“Red Goddess” came to life as a Kickstarter project with a modest goal of $30,000. By the end of the month-long fundraising period, Yanim studios had raised an extra $10,235. Examined from the most generous angle, Yanim studio’s game could pose as a good calling card on the job market. If I were in the HR department of a reputable development studio, I might be impressed by what the half-dozen members of the Spanish studio were able to cobble together on a tiny budget. However, it is impossible for me to recommend this game to any paying consumers not looking to perform some charity work.
“Red Goddess” is a 2D action platformer, in the Metroidvania vein, built around an interesting premise: What if an avatar had to do battle with her own psyche? Players control Divine, a young goddess who, after a family trauma, loses her memory. Divine must travel deep within a world modeled on her own inner conflicts to gain a modicum of inner peace and self-knowledge.
I’m all for a video game adopting the tools of psychoanalysis to construct an interesting adventure. Already, games like “The Stanley Parable” have succeeded in likening the hermetic world of single-player games to a lonely consciousness. Unfortunately, from what I have seen, “Red Goddess” offers nothing remotely stimulating other than its generally functional gameplay and severely undernourished guiding concept. I managed to get through almost two of the game’s four acts before my save file was obliterated soon after installing a program update. Barring any massive turnaround in its second-half, I feel confident in saying that “Red Goddess” has all the nuance of a middling first paper submitted by a freshman in an Intro to Psych class.
Overlook the typos, the frame-rate drops, the pop-in graphics, the screen judder, and other bugs, and it’s still impossible to ignore the heavy-handed story and clunky gameplay. When Divine is not faced with some banal platforming situation, she has to fight enemies called negative thoughts. Chief among the heroine’s offensive maneuvers is her ability to transform into a red creature that represents rage or a blue creature that represents fear. Depending on her incarnation, Divine can take out correspondingly matched red or blue enemies. This polarity switching mechanic pays homage to “Outland,” a 2D game in the same genre that is markedly superior in its gameplay and level design and which borrowed its color-coded combat from the classic Japanese spaceship shooter “Ikaruga.”
“Outland” gave players precise controls and distinct enemy patterns that made switching between polarities feel like a dance. In “Red Goddess,” blue and red enemies frequently overlap each other so the mechanic feels muddled. Button mashing is almost unavoidable. There is nothing elegant about this game and no reason for anyone to play it.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer who has been playing video games since the days of the Atari 2600. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Barnes & Noble Review, Al Jazeera America, the Guardian and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.