Review: REDO!

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One of the things I like most about the huge glut of indie platformers on Steam is the great variety of moods and motifs you can find among them. Sure, there are countless poor imitations of Super Meat Boy to sift through, but honestly there are just as many that have genuinely unique looks and feels that deserve to be seen. REDO! treads some familiar ground with a techno-apocalypse, but gives it its own spark with a pervasive sense of uncertainty, dread, and isolation. It’s not the easiest game to break into, given some of its more punishing conceits, but it’s definitely worth it for a platforming experience all its own.

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We sure do like apocalypses in our video games, don’t we? This one goes mostly unexplained for once, leaving the world utterly ruined, humanity reduced to lifeless husks, and strange techno-organic beasts roaming what remains. You might very well be the last human left alive, a condition that is in no way enviable given your oppressive isolation. But a strange broadcast suggests that there is at least one other survivor, and they want to meet at the top of the city’s cathedral. With nothing better to do, you leave the dark confines of your hideaway and face the terrors that have taken the city, all for a chance to see another living soul again.

The sense of solitude is a big part of what makes REDO! work so well. Everything about the design, from the unearthly enemies to the muted colors and sound selections, is intended to sell that feeling of being the only living soul around. It’s compounded in a surprising way by characters you meet who are not human themselves, and who draw a very uncomfortable distinction between you and them. The best parts of REDO! are when you’re navigating deep tunnels or abandoned streets and get that same feeling of being in a quietly hostile alien world that games like Dark Souls inspire. And there are a lot of those parts, given how sprawling and twisted the ruins are.

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The game takes more than just a feel from Dark Souls, and not everything it borrows is for the best. Level design is, though, with a world of dark tunnels, crumbling buildings, and sunny rooftops to explore. There are light metroidvania elements in some of the items and tools you find, and tons of shortcuts to unlock back to save points. Save points are a bit too sparse for my tastes, however, which can make figuring out some of the game’s nastier enemies a painful experience. You don’t lose anything besides time from being killed but it’s a reset back to that previous save, meaning you don’t keep anything you found or unlocked. Despite being a traditional save setup, it doesn’t mesh well with the soulslike influences found elsewhere in the game.

Enemies are likely to be the most contentious part of REDO!, both in how they’re designed and how you deal with them. Your foes are all twisted masses of black cabling, warped flesh, and crackling electricity. Some look disturbingly humanoid, while others are spheres, knots, or hulking beasts. They all have gimmicks to their attacks, and the further into the game you get the further they get from basic threats. Late game enemies have ruinous flame attacks, bullet-hell waves of shots, and one particularly nasty one is completely invisible and can kill you in one or two touches. Some of these gimmicks blow past challenge and land squarely in the realm of frustration, especially with your purposefully slow melee attacks in mind. You get some neat tools like blasters and rocket launchers, but limited ammo means they’ll be reserved for the most troublesome foes.

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Combat mostly captures the tactical thrill of timing hits and making the most of staggers, it’s just that when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. If you can overlook that, though, you’ll have an emotional, challenging adventure to work through. The pixel art is clean and evocative, especially with the restrained palette it works off of. And the sound design is just as reserved, breaking in with rich effects when they’ll have the most impact. You only need that all-important patience to work out enemy patterns and the sprawling map, but it’s effort that’s well-rewarded. REDO! captures the more thoughtful side of the end of the world, facing you with a lonely journey that feels as punishing as being the last human left.

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