During the last Steam Game Festival, I was able to play the Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood demo in its entirety. A game released by Headup Games, it immediately got my attention, even more so because it’s a partnership that worked before on The Coma 2: The Vicious Sisters, developers Devspresso Games.
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Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is a step up from the last title for a few reasons. It isn’t a horror game, so that reduces the risk of rubber bed sheets, plus there’s a focus on comedy (and it delivers). The puzzles made me feel like Batman as I broke them down as if a polystyrene wall. It’s not that they’re easy; they just suit the way my brain works. Thanks, Devspresso, for making me feel intelligent.
Overindulgent exposition fulfilled, you play the Scarlet in the title, or as us BFFs say, Scar. She’s part of a dixie troupe called Foxtrot Bop. Usually, that would get the red buzzer from me, but she rocks – perhaps a little too much. She’s promptly identified as the band’s star and offered a contract on her own. How will her bandmates react? Will they be supportive, or will they be calling her Judas? There’s no time to find out as she’s whisked away to Glome.
What the hell? Nope, it’s not hell, but it’s not far off. Parodying the Wizard Of Oz, Scarlet has to relive each day as if a reboot of Groundhog Day. But let’s not read this as a negative as it allows for you to finetune the day so that you’re able to defeat the evil witch LeFaba. We’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but in brief, Scar literally fills the boots of the Red Witch and is the only person capable of defeating LeFaba. Initially, she doesn’t stand a chance, but with each ‘run’, she grows stronger and enlists a bunch of reprobates.
It may seem like a burden, but once she’s mastered the loop, she may just succeed in her quest, and like an attractive Sam Beckett but in fishnets, then return home. Alas, the catalyst for each repeat of the day is death, and with only seven lives, you’re going to have to explore the wacky world of Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood.
Point and clicks encourage exploration, but here you have to be swift as enemies will hunt you down, including LeFaba’s familiar, Brer Wolf – a hulking Big Bad Wolf character. Your familiar? Brer Fox – an extra from Hilda. You can run out of breath, become poisoned, and be the winner of a murder death kill. For that reason, saving your game frequently is a must. On a slight note, there were a few stutters at the time of writing, including one crash. These can be ironed out in updates, but if you’re a novice adventurer, think of it as backing up your
porn poetry collection: it doesn’t hurt to save, and when the equivalent of Fenir is chasing you, think of it as insurance.
Like the lockers in The Coma 2, Scar can hide from any threats, but the lack of hiding places in the woods means you’ll be shapeshifting as a totem. They aren’t always the same, and the art, as throughout Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood, is fantastic. Anyway. Typical enemies will be Oz-like Monkeyta and the very alive Dodobo. Avoiding enemies is the best approach here, and Scar can evade them with her witch skills, pressing space. It does operate on a gauge principle, so you won’t be replicating The Flash.
She has such an innocent aura about her that you would welcome her to your circle of friends. Not just to catch a glimpse of her in her fishnets when you’re behind her on the stairs. She’s wicked. There could be a wicked witch joke in there, but I’m better than that. I’m not.
You will replay a few sections, and not just because of the hex. While I love the dialogue throughout, you can’t skip some areas, which can be mildly frustrating if you don’t want to sit through for the third time (you can click through the dialogue though). As mentioned, I loved the puzzles, and with the odd exception, they were very intuitive and a complete paradox of the urgency needed when the wolf is about.
What I disliked most about Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood was wolfy, hence why I keep mentioning it. However, you can hear when they’re coming and take action before they see you. Equally, it’s not that hard to get lost either. Besides a map you can view on command, you can press the Alt key for your objectives, and hints are displayed in the dialogue in purple, like how Inspector Waffles did it in yellow. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but if you need a little nudge, EA got it wrong: it’s in the dialogue, not the game.
With a refreshing approach to Grimm-like storytelling, Scar’s experience in Glome mirrors that of her ‘reality’ as you meet fellow bandmates and enlist them with your plight, only reimagined as L. Frank Baum’s novel. The first party member being (sorry, is this a spoiler?) Punkin Jack. Ignoring the spelling, it’s a perfect link to another Headup Game. Just sayin’.
I enjoyed The Coma 2, but Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is so much better, based on my tastes. It’s original, witty, has excellent characters and features a lovely presentation throughout. It’s not an arduous affair, and you’ll mostly balance your time with evasion and the puzzles. Your reward? A brilliant story that will keep you hooked until the end. Then start repeat again, until you take out Punxsutawney Phil.
- A fun reimagining of a classic.
- The presentation throughout is stellar.
- User-friendly inventory and hotkeys.
- QTE door unlocks are both fun and frustrating.
- Infectious protagonist (not a sexual reference).
- Requires frequent saves due to the danger and occasional crash.
- Sometimes need to refresh a puzzle for it to trigger (monkey puzzle)
- The wolf is an arsehole. I’m a dead man.