Red Bow review for PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also on: PS Vita, Switch, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Grab The Games/Stranga Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

So far this year, I’ve played a pair of games developed by Stranga Games: Just Ignore Them, a point-and-click adventure that was thoroughly awful, and My Big Sister, which was thoroughly delightful. Red Bow is from the third game I’ve played from the same developers, and going in, I was unsure which previous game to trust more.

It really could have gone either way. After all, like both Just Ignore Them and My Big Sister before it, Red Bow is a point-and-click adventure with heavy Japanese influences. Like its predecessors, Red Bow looks fairly retro. All three games are extremely short, and can be finished in well under an hour. They?re all easy Platinums. While it’s clear that Stranga have a specific niche they aim for, the big question was whether this would be closer to the good side of what they’re capable of, or the terrible.

I’m pleased to report Red Bow falls much more on the good side of the ledger. It may not be as excellent as My Big Sister, but it’s at least compelling and memorable, which is more than could be said about Just Ignore Them.

What sets Red Bow onto the “good” side is that it mostly makes sense, in its own weird way. It?s three very short stories about a girl trapped in some kind of netherworld, where she has to free souls. There are a couple of beings — some quite gruesome — trapped in purgatory with her, and it?s up to her (and you) whether to blow through the world to try to get home as quickly as possible, or to take a bit of time (relatively speaking — we?re talking ten minutes versus two minutes) to explore her surroundings.

Despite the frightening creatures you encounter, each level plays out as a brief meditation on memory and death. We?re hardly talking about deep philosophy here, given the time constraints, but it?s more thoughtful than most games (a trait it shares with My Big Sister). During its short run time it talks about suicide, and responsibility, and second chances, and it manages to avoid coming off as trite or clich?d.

Luckily, Red Bow also avoids falling into the common point-and-click trap of being too cute. There are a decent number of things to interact with in each level, but your goals are always pretty straightforward, and there are no weird leaps of logic to distract you from the simple story.

Given its trappings and its story, I wouldn?t go so far as to call Red Bow pleasant, but it?s certainly in that ballpark. It?s an odd little game that, like My Big Sister before it, is better than it has any right to be, and it?s probably worth investigating if you?re in the mood for something short and different.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Red Bow PS4/Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: A-