The crowdfunded cinematic fable Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries by Belgium developer GRIN Gamestudio (not to be confused with Swedish developer Grin) may be best described as a spiritual successor to Alice: Madness Returns. From its vibrant environments to its knife-wielding (well “axe wielding” in this case) heroine, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries puts a macabre spin on another beloved Grimm fairy tale. While still in Early Access, Woolfe offers enough content to get players excited for the final release. There are still notable gameplay bugs here and there, but as far as Early Access titles go, Woolfe is incredibly polished and undoubtedly worth the asking price.
Woolfe tells the story of Red Riding Hood who sets out to uncover the truth behind her father’s death. The game looks and feels like Alice: Madness Returns, but it’s presented in 2.5 instead of 3D. Combining old school platforming, hack n’ slash combat and environmental puzzle solving, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is fundamentally reminiscent of countless sidescroller classics. It may not bring anything particularly new to the genre, but it’s the poetic presentation and overall tone that give Woolfe undeniable charm and personality.
"There are still notable gameplay bugs here and there, but as far as Early Access titles go, Woolfe is incredibly polished and undoubtedly worth the asking price."
Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries carries its narrative with remarkable voice overs by the talented Michelle Sparks and a superb script. The parallels between Alice and Woolfe are unquestionable. For all its vibrancy and fairy tale aesthetics, Woolfe is a dark tale of a revenge driven young girl thirsting for blood. It’s precisely the kind of tale Kill Bill’s Bride would whisper in her enemy’s ear before slicing their head off.
Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is visually stunning. The environments are meticulously crafted, and every level looks like a page from a story book. A lot of love and care went into rendering each area, and Red’s character redesign is equally impressive. The developers have done a superb job of combining the fairy tale aesthetic of the books with their own modern steampunk reinterpretation. Unfortunately, enemy variety is severely lacking. So far there are only three types of foes: tin soldiers, wolfs and giant bugs. There are some rats that Red fights off every now and then, but they don’t really count. Hopefully the final built introduces more AI diversity as the current enemies aren’t much fun to fight.
"Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is visually stunning. The environments are meticulously crafted, and every level looks like a page from a story book."
This brings us to Woolfe’s biggest problem: the gameplay. Things appear fine at first. The animations are fantastic, the platforming is solid and the axe-wielding combat feels brutal and satisfying. Sadly, Woolfe’s gameplay is far from finished. Combos don’t chain properly and rarely work, and levels that require precise platforming are nearly impossible. Players can modify Red’s attacks by pressing A or B during combos to either perform a jump attack or throw the axe, but it rarely works. Since A is jump and B is roll, Red doesn’t always do what she’s supposed to, which results in repeated unnecessary deaths.
"The remaining months are going to be crucial for Grin. At its current stage, the game could go one of two ways."
The platforming is even worse. There’s an entire level that requires pixel perfect jumping from floating, moving rocks. The problem is that the 2.5 camera translates depth very poorly. I spent nearly 20 minutes trying to make a simple jump. Not only did the camera obscure my vision, the poor collision detection made it difficult to land on solid ground despite Red’s feet clearly hitting the surface. She simply falls through the environment into the abyss. While the “Early Access” status isn’t indicative of the game’s final gameplay, small tweaks aren’t going to be enough to fix Woolfe’s current issues. Grin needs to make major improvements to both combat and platforming if they want Woolfe to be an enjoyable and successful experience.
Despite its issues, Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries is a beautiful indie gem that’s full of potential. The remaining months are going to be crucial for Grin. At its current stage, the game could go one of two ways. It could be the next best thing since Alice: Madness Returns, or it could end up as just another wasted potential. Grin’s passion and love for Woolfe are irrefutable. They’ve crafted a gorgeous world, and they’ve found the perfect voice actress to portray Red. If the gameplay quirks are ironed out by the time Woolfe releases, it’ll be an absolute success, no doubt.
Preview by: Tin Salamunic | Previewed on: PC