As the world shifts more and more towards a service industry, products are becoming more user oriented. With mass media, producers are now more aware of the wants and needs of customers, and this is becoming also true for the games industry. With services such as kickstarter trailers, Steam Greenlight and the like, developers are trying to collect feedback from a variety of sources to be able to fix or change their game to better suit the tastes of gamers all around the globe.
Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is one such title, and since its Alpha release late last year, another updated version has been released, a version which is not finished but which is much closer to the real thing than the alpha was. What I really like from the developers GRIN is that they are seeking to collect ideas from the most people possible to make sure they have the best game they can make, but at this point the game is already very good. Having covered the game already for the Alpha, I was already familiar with the core mechanics of the game, which have not changed. Little Red Riding Hood, who is not so little anymore but has matured into a teenager now probably, still has her trusty axe, which is used to destroy enemies who dare face her. Killing enemies will fill a meter which can then be used to unleash a powerful special move. Enemies do not have to be killed all the time; in fact some parts require the use of stealth because fighting will end up surrounded by enemies who will knock you down fairly quickly. This change of pace between gameplay styles is not very common especially in platformers, and thus it is very welcome. That said, the focus in the game is still platforming and finding one’s way around the game. Levels are designed well and include small puzzles which need some thinking but upon analysing the options the solution will come quickly, which is good since the focus of the game is essentially progression not puzzling.
In the preview of the Alpha done back in October, one thing topped my list of what needs to be kept and expanded in the full game, and that is the narrative. I am glad to say that not only it has been expanded but it has practically become the main element of the game. Apart from having the opening of the level narrated by Little Red Riding Hood, she now has a part during gameplay as well, due to her constant talking and fighting grunts and also all the remarks which she makes regarding the enemies. It really gives the game its own identity, and brings out the main character of the game in a way that few games have done lately. The character of Little Red Riding Hood is observed to be that of a resolute girl who is willing to avenge her father, who died in “mysterious” circumstances while working for Mr. Woolfe, the owner of the factory where Riding Hood’s father died. She sets out on a quest for vengeance and will not let anything stop her, and the dialogues and narrations across the different levels emphasise her will.
In terms of graphics, the game is very representative of what one may consider to be a fairy tale village, complete with toy soldiers and all. To increase the fairy element in the story, it takes place in winter and thus tons of snow is constantly decorating the map on outside levels. The sound of the game is also exceptional, and matches the game or the animation currently taking place on screen. Previously mentioned but strongly deserves a second mention, the narration and voice work made by Riding Hood is great, and the character is really easy to empathize with thanks to her explanation of how the tale happened along the way.
If there is something which bothered me in the game, I must say that it is the mice. Mice obviously are small creatures and since attacks are not targeted, they are not expected to hit ground targets. The ground attack also hits a little randomly and thus inhibited my ability to kill it. This resulted in me swinging the axe around ten times while a rat nibbled at my feet until he knocked me out. A little fix here would surely make the game less frustrating, especially when being ganged by a group of rats which become almost invincible with this problem.
GRIN have done an exceptional job on the game, and implementing the feedback from the community was certainly one of the elements which is pushing the game to the level it is at right now. it is what most developers must be doing, but the general idea is that of polishing the game to death, with eventual delays on release when fear that the game is not good enough strikes the studio. Hopefully GRIN will not have problems of the like, but if they do have these problems it will not come up as an excuse since the whole community can observe the hard work being put in by the developers. Woolfe will release in a few weeks and if it keeps its positives and adds some polish, it will definitely be one to keep an eye out for.