Do you know those movies where the plot starts in one direction and then goes absolutely sideways into something else? Who would have thought that a simple kidnapping would culminate in a fight with vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn? Or how a simple reconnaissance mission in Event Horizon turns into something gruesome and otherworldy. Twists like that can sometimes elevate a movie from decent to at least interesting (if executed correctly) or put a final nail in the coffin of bad storytelling. Now, why is this relevant? Because Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is one of those movies. Games, actually. A seemingly innocent story that starts in one direction and pretty soon it turns into something else. But is that storytelling twist enough to enrich the game or does it ruin it? Let’s find out!
Our titular character, Scarlet, is going through some serious drama. She is an aspiring singer of a band called Foxtrot Bop. A day after her latest gid, she is presented with a tough choice. Accept a contract that could boost her career but it would also mean she would have to ditch her band members since it is a solo contract. Tensions in the bend arise once the info is out but that’s also the point in the story where that problem ends and a new one starts for Scarlet. Or let’s say a couple of new ones. That same night she is caught in a powerful tornado that transports her into an enchanted realm of Glome. A colorful realm filled with magic, peculiar characters, and loads of puzzles. Pretty soon she stumbles upon a Munchkin caravan and they turn to her for help so they can pass through the titular Wicked Wood. To do so, Scarlet would have to don the mantle of a Red Witch, learn to wield the powerful Womping Stick, and defeat the witch called LeFaba. Even Dorothy didn’t have it this hard. Anyway, soon enough we learn that she is severely outmatched by the enemies in the Wicked Wood and that where the story apparently ends. Or so it seems. Thanks to the magic of the Red Witch, Scarlet has the ability to relive the same day and perhaps do things differently. Did someone say Groundhog Day?
At the first glance, Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is an elaborate point n click game. But if we dig deeper, we can also find hints of platforming, spell management, stamina management, and fighting occasional enemies. It’s more than enough to keep the game interesting. The puzzles are plentiful and they range from incredibly easy to someone help I’ve been stuck on this one for ages. In every case, the solution will present itself to you once you explore every little detail of the screen that you’re at and talk to others. So if you’re not smart, just be persistent and you will solve stuff eventually. And the great thing about solving puzzles in this game is that they often act as branching paths in this story. After all, the game boasts itself in having multiple endings. Many things you do in Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood will change its story as well as the ending. Obviously, you won’t get them all on the first playthrough but you’ll know better what do to for later playthroughs. Hey, kinda like in the Groundhog Day.
Two things will be emphasized as you play Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood: the visuals and the soundtrack. We’ll talk about the music later but a couple of things has to be said about the art first. It has hand-illustrated graphics, gorgeous character design, and quality background art. The chapters in the game will contain different areas such as caves, towers, and obviously….woods. Each of those segments is incredibly detailed and lively. The developers played strongly with this hand, considering that a lot of artwork can be unlocked as wallpapers the more you progress through the game. Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood has no issues separating itself from the other adventure games when it comes to art and character design. Some characters later in the game such as robotic-looking knight Ulysses Talus have a distinct personality that’s obviously stemming from alluring visuals.
Since music is a strong plot point (or at least a starting plot point) of the game, it’s no wonder that a lot of love went into the crafting of the soundtrack for Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood. The developers say that the New Jazz genre is dominant throughout the game. The composer Sung-woo Hwang did a marvelous job of sprinkling upbeat jazzy tunes all over the game and some of the tracks often complement the colorful environment of the woods. After Cuphead, this is one of my favorite jazzy soundtracks in indie games.
Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is anything but a simple game. It has enough curiosities in itself to separate it from the rest but also some occasional missteps. For example, I’m baffled why a game with multiple endings doesn’t have the option to skip text for subsequent playthroughs. Luckily, there are plenty of good things in the game to overshadow the bad so I can definitely recommend it. If you’re looking for a fresh point n click release with an engaging story and unique visuals, look no further.
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