Red’s Kingdom is one of those games that, despite being released on iOS devices originally, really does lend itself to the Switch’s slightly beefier portable setup. Almost everything about this puzzle adventure appears to have been designed for portable play, but the package is strong and well polished enough to make the jump to a dedicated system.
The game’s predictable and light story sees the titular Red have his collection of nuts stolen by the region’s baddie, Mad King Mac. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, the evil genius took Red’s father, too, but our squirrel protagonist doesn’t seem too concerned about this additional issue. In fact, during the sporadic cutscenes, Red seems to make a point of comically reminding himself that he should probably be concerned about his father and the Kingdom, when in reality, he just wants his precious nuts back.
It’s a simple but charming theme that runs throughout, with any dialogue between characters made up of little gobbledegook noises and overly excited expressions, but the story very much takes a back seat here. Instead, the gameplay is the main focus from start to finish, taking a usually minor puzzle mechanic from other games and building upon it to make something substantial.
If you’ve played early games in the Pokémon series, or travelled through your fair share of The Legend of Zelda dungeons, you’ll likely be familiar with the ‘ice floor’ type puzzles, where your character slides around a room using boulders or blocks as stopping points to reach new areas. Red’s Kingdom is entirely built around this concept, with Red rolling around from place to place (with only a simple flick of the left stick or glide on the touchscreen required), both inside levels, and even when travelling around the game’s overworld.
The game tasks you with finding a series of special objects to progress, with each area presenting you with a similar rolling puzzle. These areas are split into much smaller sections to allow these puzzles to make sense logistically, with each sectioned off area being a unique puzzle in its own right. Similar ideas are used throughout, but you’ll never come across the exact same puzzle layout twice.
Every now and then, after clearing a handful of these smaller areas, a new hazard or interactive object will be added to the mix. From spiky barrels, bouncy tires, and transporters, to sticky ink, levers, and Portal-style - well - portals, these do just about enough to keep things interesting, adding regular fresh problems for your brain to solve. The levels contain collectable items, too, such as nuts and health hearts, which can often help to provide a hint on the correct path through the puzzle.
You’ll also come across enemies, who usually have to be defeated to create an open path to your current area’s goal. Enemies are despatched by simply bumping into them, but if you fail to time your press of the ‘A’ button correctly, you’ll receive some damage in return. It’s also important to note that enemies can cause you to bounce backwards, potentially pushing you off the stage, so your route of attack has to be planned just as carefully as your puzzle solving.
If that wasn’t enough, your journey will also see you collecting a couple of power-ups to compliment your puzzle-solving prowess. With a set of wings that enable you to fly over gaps, and a glowing mushroom which can be used to teleport to nearby pieces of land, these should have opened up a whole new wave of puzzle ideas. Unfortunately, though, these actually have less of an impact than the regular stage additions, and only serve to take you to new, undiscovered areas.
The repetitive nature of the same puzzle mechanic being used from start to finish does start to grate after a while, giving even more weight to the idea of this game being much better suited to handheld play. In short, pick-up-and-play bursts, Red’s Kingdom can be a lot of fun; stick with it for more than an hour or two in one session, however, and you’ll soon want to put it down in favour of something else. Luckily, save points are relatively common throughout, so quick sessions are easy to plan out.
From a visual point of view, the game looks as smooth and as pretty as you could hope for from a simple puzzler. There’s plenty of colour and charm shining through in the cartoony graphics, and the soundtrack is as pleasantly relaxing as you’d want it to be, especially if you get stuck on the same puzzle for far too long like we sometimes did. Some tunes are admittedly forgettable, but the odd ones stand out as being very pleasing to the ears indeed.
Overall, Red’s Kingdom is a game that does its job nicely, while never going as far as exciting the player or having any kind of “wow” moments to set it apart from the crowd. There are lots of things to discover, and the time needed to collect every last little item for that tasty 100% definitely justifies the asking price, but there isn’t quite enough creativity present for it to truly shine.
Little niggles such as the inability to move on when stuck in a puzzle and the ease of getting lost on the main map, as well as that missed opportunity with the power-ups, all combine with the game’s much more pleasing points mentioned above to create a final product just lacking that cutting edge. It’s a solid little puzzler, but the Switch eShop is home to several other games of the genre that offer just as much.
Red’s Kingdom is full of cutesy charm and clever puzzles that act as a nice way to pass the time in small doses. Longer play sessions are ruined by repetition, and the game struggles to really fulfil its potential due to the occasional lack of creativity, but there’s definitely some fun to be had in its nutty world. With a decent level of challenge for all ages, and a puzzle mechanic that can go a surprisingly long way, this one is perhaps best suited to those looking for quick sessions of chilled out puzzle gameplay.