A Scarlet Letter: Redder

By Kieron Gillen on March 29th, 2010 at 3:32 pm.

Not Jetpac. Nodes of Yesod. Trust me.

As mentioned earlier, I realised when I was off in Seattle Auntie “Mighty Jill Off” Pixelante released her new game, Redder. It’s a much larger project, browser-based and a large, exploratory platformer. Initially, I was disappointed, but it’s grown on me and if I go back and finish it, I may even end up writing more. For the yanks, it’ll probably remind you lot of something on the Nintendo. Being British, it reminded me of Nodes of Yesod’s Underwurlde-in-space-riff and – even odder – Harlequin. It’s something about its mix of C64 (the sprites) and Amiga (the copper-banding) aesthetics. While it’s neither or brutal or as life-affirming as VVVVVV, I suspect if you enjoyed that, you’ll find a trip through these tunnels worthwhile. You can go play it here.

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35 Comments »

  1. Auspex says:

    Rock, Paper, Kieron Gillen.

    Go on Keiron, go for five posts in a row!

    • Auspex says:

      Please bring back the edit function so I can pretend I can spell…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Auspex: As I just said to the RPS guys, someone should post about something which actually has a budget soon. I’m making this place look like TIGSource.

      KG

    • Dinger says:

      Not only five posts in a row, but two bad links to something. Careful, he’s gonna run the table!

    • Nova says:

      @Auspex

      Tought the same, Kieron is running RPS alone.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      Quick – post an item about EA charging for demos, It’s the RPS-est of RPS news items! There’s nothing we apparently like more than getting really angry about this sort of thing.

    • Premium User Badge Schaulustiger says:

      Or go post about JC2!

    • Wulf says:

      No, please do keep it up, Kieron! I’m quite enjoying all these little things you link! No harm in doing so, and besides, RPS tends to present things in a far more interesting way than TigSource. I stopped reading TigSource a bit back in favour of RPS (sorry Derek!).

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I’ve already told all of you – the Monster was Kirby! Kieron is still dead! Kirby is wearing the Hivemind’s heads as hats.

      It’s just, sometimes he forgets to change which hat he’s wearing.

  2. Kelduum Revaan says:

    Dunno about anyone else, but it really reminds me of Exile with a bit of Saboteur from the old days.

    I lost count how many hours I wasted on just the cover demo of Exile on the Amiga, and I never did find anywhere that could get me it.

  3. Cinnamon says:

    A bit more Universal Hero than Nodes of Yesod in my opinion.

    The graphics are very Amiga-esque although the style looks more like a port of an 8-bit spectrum game to the Amiga. Pixels are much to square to be even remotely C64.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Cinnamon : Ooh. Good call.

      KG

    • BigJonno says:

      I think you’ve nailed it with the 8-bit port thing. I know games on my Speccy never looked that good, but Amiga games looked much better. I definitely noticed a weird, generation-straddling disconnect while I was playing it.

  4. Wulf says:

    Hm, this does remind me of a few games on the Amiga. It has potential too, but at the moment it’s a little dry. The primary problems I had with it is that there’s no reward for exploration, like in Knytt/Knytt Stories/VVVVVV, it’s all very ambiguous/vague, and I didn’t have much in the way of motivation.

    Hm, pipe area, medieval area, technology area, and so on, but I wish I’d had a reason for being in them or exploring them. One other problem I had was that many screens (especially the later screens) were very crowded, and this slowed down movement. That was mildly annoying for progress later on in the game.

    The mechanic of switching blocks is great, and it has loads of potential, but at the moment it’s just not something for me.

  5. Premium User Badge Sagan says:

    Wow I was really impressed by this at the end. It had me doubting it multiple times, but it always won me back, and the end was just brilliant.

    I think she could sell this for money. Well maybe she got a nice sponsorship from Newgrounds.

    • Wulf says:

      After reading this I wonder if I was a little too hard on it. I do wish there was more sense of purpose, though.

      One major plus for it though was that after closing the tab, it actually saved my exact position, so when I just opened it again it resumed right there.

      I’m going to keep at this, I just wish there were clues, bits of dialogue written on the walls, ancient artefacts revealing the nature of an ancient civilisation, or just about anything that would break it up a bit.

  6. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    I played this a few days back and I wasn’t that taken with it.

    Seems to be a common reaction and like Wulf I’m wondering now if it’s worth going back to. It’s just . . . I understood the block switching mechanic (it’s a good one) and I collected a few things but always in the back of my mind was “I’m going to go have to figure out how to go all the way back to the beginning and get round to all those collectibles at the start. Couple that to struggling to remember how to get back one or two screens away and the thought of doing so, possibly renavigating tough sections to go in the wrong direction entirely, just didn’t fill me with joy! I decided to quit while I was ahead. I think I’m going to stay in that position if I’m being honest.

    • Wulf says:

      There are two things that could fix this game, really.

      1. A teleport system to the various areas, such as one at the start and perhaps 1/2 at different points, and the ability to jump between them by using another teleporter. (This is ripping off VVVVVV I know, but the teleporters were a huge part of why VVVVVV worked.)

      2. Some kind of reward system, the thing is… to be blunt, it’s not a lot of fun to explore. It has tilesets, and traps, and I actually dig all that, I had fun with that, but at the end of a long pathway I wanted there to be some huge chamber or something, with some ancient computers, decorated with the detritus and beliefs of an ancient and long extinct species. Yes, I want it to be Indiana Jones in space. This is what I thought was lacking from the original Metroid games, too, to be frank. And this is exactly what was added to the later Metroid games, such as Prime and Fusion.

      The problems are at the moment is that the progression is too slow (it can take a while to get through one room) and the thought of having to get back to another section of the map manually is frightening. as a kid, I would’ve had the patience and the time to spare, as an adult? Uh, no. And it’s… dead, not just dead in the sense of there’s no one living there, but dead in the sense of that there was no one ever living there. Instead of being on an alien planet, I felt like I was a hamster running around a very specifically created maze, there was no detritus of life, no evidence of life, nothing, it all felt very prefabricated.

      If AP goes and adds these things to the game then it could be a gem, it could be an utterly marvellous thing of wonder and joy. As it is, it’s kind of just a little boring. If I was forced to go over challenges I could complete in my sleep in VVVVVV time ad again I’d probably feel the same about that. So… teleporters!

  7. Slacktron says:

    There are teleporters. If you go to the (M)ap screen, you can use (S) to jump back to the (S)tart/(S)hip. The save points (those little white things that look kinda like parking meters) also serve as (W)aypoints, so pressing (W) on the Map screen can be used to jump you back to where you last saved.

    I enjoyed the minimalist approach, personally.

    • Wulf says:

      Oops, I didn’t know about any of that… it must’ve flicked past when loading and I didn’t notice, and since the game resumes rather than going to a title screen, there was no way to know. Now I know.

      I disagree slightly with the minimalist approach, though. A story, the detritus of life, fun little things to discover and so on make the difference between a dead game that shows us how games really were in our youth, or how we view them through rose-tinted nostalgia specs. See: VVVVVV. If VVVVVV had no story, none of those little screens and so on, if it didn’t have the Elephant, if it was completely emotionless, then it wouldn’t have been half as charming and compelling as it was.

  8. Helm says:

    The game is good to very good in some situations however putting a map in this game without showing how the rooms connect to each other, where there are passages and doors was an arguably bad design decision.

    Anna could do with teaming up with a dedicated pixel artist too.

  9. BooleanBob says:

    Been playing this for about an hour so far. At first I adored the aesthetics, enjoyed the mechanics, and was happy enough poking around the world, doing some exploring, and engaging manfully in the kind of puzzle solving that requires more of a pleasing persistence than Braid-like flashes of inspiration. I honestly couldn’t think what real criticism you could level at it other than it not being VVVVVV, which seems a little unfair as, after all, most other games aren’t either.
    But now it’s getting weird. So weird that it’s a little upsetting. Tiles shifting and swapping out with increasing regularity. Music distorting, bending, warping from the melody and tempo in ways that alarm the ear and brain.
    Perhaps it’s building to some dramatic narrative twist, but hell, I’ve still got at least 7 diamonds to go. The game seems to be becoming wilfully less compelling to play the nearer you are to completion. I’m probably going to play on out of bloody-mindedness, but I hope the ending is indeed as good a payoff as Sagan indicates above.

    • Premium User Badge Sagan says:

      OK I think I have to say something here. Because when I said that I was doubtful about the game multiple times, then I should also say that one of the things I found questionable was the ending. At least at first. It almost had me close the window in frustration instead of going back to the ship, but I didn’t, and it took me some time to understand why the game does what it does.

      I really want to have a conversation about this but I also don’t want to spoil it.

      Also 7 diamonds to go isn’t a lot. The last ones should be the quickest, because you have figured out how the game works by now.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Almost there! I have all the ‘standard’ crystals – should I head back to the ship, collect the remaining three, or do both?

    • BooleanBob says:

      Completed it with all the crystals. As I feared, this was a mistake: you can collect enough to see the ‘first’ ending (I assume there is one, and I assume it is not much unlike the second at all) and continue on to find the remaining crystals for the second – no way, though, to do it the other way around.

      And all I can in this immediate moment of completion say is this: I don’t understand. Whatever it is you’re seeing, I’m not! The whole thing has left me a bit confused, and in dire need of a cup of tea. Which I think I will now go and have, and then maybe come back and see if anything’s changed in my perspective (or indeed, the game).

  10. john t says:

    Do collect the remaining 3, it gets interesting at the very end.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    Oh my God, I think I have it. I should really have cottoned on much earlier, having played Mighty Jill Off to the end (and followed the discussion and criticism surrounding it pretty thoroughly).
    Well, it’s remarkable all right. And Ms. Anthropy should be congratulated, in that she’s created another very successful game. Perhaps moreso than MJO. In this light, it’s rather sobering to consider the implications of being someone who wouldn’t stop until I 100%’d the game.
    (I didn’t even turn off the sound!)

  12. anon says:

    At least they talked about getting “inspiration” from Monuments Of Mars: http://goo.gl/6XIT

    …a lot of the graphics look verrry similar, could be a bit more unique than an almost direct copy with no mention in the game itself.

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Just finished it now. Yeah, definitely worth playing. Am a little amused by the newgrounds reviewers who don’t get what’s happening with the glitches.

    KG

  14. Premium User Badge Sagan says:

    Alright so here is when I thought the ending was brilliant:
    SPOILERS
    Or maybe I should explain first for those who don’t want to finish it. So as you progress through the game, the game gets more and more buggy. The graphics start to flicker a little, then the sound gets messed up. At one point, all enemies simply become yellow blocks. Then after you collect the next crystal they go back to their normal looks, and later they will flicker or walk backwards or both. Just before the end everything really starts to flicker to the point where it’s very hard to play, until finally, with the last crystal, all the graphics become simple single-colour blocks. You are a white block, the background is black or dark brown, all the platforms are just blocks of lighter brown, and check points for example are blue blocks.
    At this point I was disappointed, because the increasing intensity of the bugs was clearly building up to something, and this was just… well disappointing. All the graphics had just vanished.
    So it was always clear that you would have to return to the ship, except at the end suddenly your teleporter is disabled. So you are stuck in the most remote corner of the map where the last crystal was hidden, and you have to walk all the fucking way back to your ship. And most likely you have already walked through each of those rooms three times trying to figure out how to get to one of the crystals. Walking back AGAIN really sucks.
    Except somewhere along the way I started to notice something: Even though everything was just brown blocks, in my mind I knew what these rooms were supposed to be. I knew when I was entering which ruins, that that brown thing over there was a pillar or a building, and I knew when I was back at the surface of the planet, and what it was supposed to look like. And that’s when I thought the ending was brilliant.
    Because in a sense, that’s how we used to play games. We had a couple of colourful blocks on the screen, and only in our imagination did they become real objects. Like the astronaut in this game is really just a couple of white and gray blocks but we recognize an astronaut in him. And in the end he really just is a big white block. Except you have stared at him so long that you still see the astronaut. And when you go through the ruins again, even though they are now just brown blocks, you see the ruins as they are supposed to look.
    I never had that experience in a game, even though in a sense I am having it all the time.
    I think what was different was how coscious I was of it, and how I was able to fill in ALL the detail. Big brown block becomes house. That was new to me. Usually you have “big thing similar to a house becomes a house.”

    • BooleanBob says:

      Sagan: Just wanted to say, man; that’s a lovely interpretation. I definitely got that same feeling as you during the ascent back to the ship – seeing the world in symbol and transposing over it what I (suddenly) understood to be there in crystal (sorry) clarity. Stranger still, I even had a few screens I hadn’t yet explored but was able to ‘see’ them fully when doing so in minimalism mode (in the same way that you instinctively guess the meaning of words you don’t get by their context in the sentence, I suppose: I didn’t have to ‘see’ anything more complex than mountains and rock).

      Unfortunately I wasn’t really able to fully appreciate this as I was so annoyed at making one decision on going back to the ship (left or right – the game’s eternal dilemma) that I almost immediately realised was the wrong one, but had left me stuck on the wrong side of a switch door. I had to traverse nearly the entire game space when I could have just clambered up a shaft. So half of my brain was saying, ‘oh wow’, because the effect you describe really is striking – and the other half was saying ‘idiot idiot idiot‘ because I had been playing for so long and hadn’t taken the optimal route to the finish line.

      What I ‘got’ about, or out of, the game pertains much more to the game’s relationship with Mighty Jill Off, which arguably presented itself (and at very least made obvious stylistic allusions to) as a critique of the player as a masochist – a critique somewhat undermined by a combination of compelling level design, mechanics, challenge, and sense of mastery. This game has a little of these things to begin with – is fun – but as I unwittingly noted above, actively seeks to remove that fun as progress is made, stranding the gamer with a much more actually masochistic choice (to the slight degree I understand the subject enough to pass comment) – stop, or endure the increasing discomforts you know the game will put you through.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Sagan: Yeah, how you actually imprint sense-of-place on even the blank sprites is something I definitely noticed too.

      KG

  15. MD says:

    Just started it, but has anyone mentioned Monuments of Mars yet? At first glance it totally looks like a riff on that.

  16. Premium User Badge sasayan says:

    Thought it was quite good platforming, rather reminded me of Knytt.

    I also heartily agree with above comments about still recognizing the various locations even when their tiles are gone.