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

Earlier this year, I played a horrible game called Just Ignore Them, a point-and-click adventure that was thoroughly awful. Red Bow is from the same developers, and, at first glance, I was prepared to hate it every bit as much.

That’s unfair of me, I know, except the similarities between Red Bow and Just Ignore Them are legion. They’re both point-and-click adventures. They’ve both got heavy Japanese influences. They both look like they emerged from the early days of gaming. They’re both extremely short, and can be finished in well under an hour. They’re both an easy Platinum. You want to rate every game based on its own merits, but Red Bow made it really hard to not assume the worst and call it a day.

You can imagine my surprise to discover that Red Bow is…kind of good? Or, if not good, at least compelling and memorable, which is close enough to good for my tastes.

What sets Red Bow apart 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. During its short run time it talks about suicide, and responsibility, and second chances, and it manages to avoid coming off as trite or clichéd.

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’s 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-