I should probably make it clear from the get-go that I don’t think that Red Colony is a good game. It’s very lewd in design, the combat mechanics are basic and easily exploitable, the script can be a little iffy in places, the gameplay mechanics are very samey throughout… yeah, it isn’t great.
However, there’s *SOMETHING* about it that also made it incredibly compelling for me to play through. I won’t falsely sing its praises, but Red Colony’s zany tale and exploration had enough of a hook to keep me intrigued until I reached its bizarre conclusion.
Red Colony’s narrative opens with a bit of mystery, with players taking on the role of Maria: the voluptuous boss of a laboratory that functions within the colony. She finds herself in a bit of a strange situation after waking up in a nearby warehouse and left completely unaware of how she got there – worst of all, there are some dead bodies in the warehouse and she soon receives a phone call informing her that a zombie outbreak has taken place within the colony.
With the blame pointed towards her workplace and the fear that her husband and daughter are in danger, Maria heads out through the colony to clear her name and reunite with her family. Of course, with plenty of zombies in her path (and a WHOLE LOT of drama), it’s not going to be an easy journey…
All the pieces are in place for Red Colony to offer a bog-standard, Resident Evil-style horror narrative involving zombies, but believe me, it really goes off the wall with its storytelling. Besides Maria being wrapped up in all sorts of silly relationships with her friend, nanny, and husband (that makes for plenty of curse-filled interactions), it also features one of the most absurd twists that I’ve seen in a video game for some time.
It’s a really stupid narrative overall, but somehow, I was completely absorbed by it. I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when Maria would finally catch up with her family and friends, whilst seeing the different interactions take place over the phone always made me laugh thanks to how ridiculous they are – even IF the writing itself wasn’t particularly great and certainly didn’t mind its Ps-and-Qs. I just really wanted to see howevents would play out, regardless of their quality…
Unfortunately, when it comes to the gameplay side of things, Red Colony can really falter. Movement in the game can feel quite clunky and slow, whilst it’s easy to miss items in the environment thanks to the fact that they don’t really stand out. The in-game menus are awkwardly designed too, whether that’s when using the 3D printer to get new ammo (with its hard to make out recipe lists) or using your phone to look through text messages.
Worst of all, the combat mechanics are just a bit… well… crap. Enemies are incredibly slow and make an easy target of themselves as they fumble towards you, meaning you can pick them off with ease with your guns. There’s plenty of ammo to find for your weaponry too, though the zombies’ slow movement makes them easy to take down with your knife if you prefer… there’s literally ZERO challenge to the combat. It’s clear that Red Colony was inspired by the Resident Evil series with its combat mechanics, yet it lacks the punch, the desperation of lacking ammo, and the worry that you EVER feel threatened.
Red Colony’s Resident Evil-style inspirations are also on show with the game’s puzzling, which certainly stood out as one of the game’s stronger points. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing about them that will leave you scratching your head for too long, but finding out passcodes through a bit of detective work offers some neat moments in-game and can see you having to think outside of the box at times. I liked them, whilst they also worked well with the game’s varied environments.
One big issue that I had with Red Colony came with its bugs, with the game certainly having its share of weird moments. There were times where I’d interact with a door to move through it only to find myself in the same room, there were times where enemies didn’t seem to try and attack me, whilst characters would also repeat dialogue if you re-visited them in previous areas – that last one might not sound like much of an issue, but it felt particularly weird for me given how the story plays out later in the game (you’ll see what I mean if you play it).
The worst bug I encountered? You find special fuses to activate an optional story-driven event at the end of Red Colony, but for some reason the game didn’t recognise that I had collected one of them, locking me out of the content and giving what I have to presume was the bad ending. It was pretty frustrating and something that I didn’t fancy playing through the game again to try and rectify, even if it is easily beatable in around two hours.
As a side-note, the developer acknowledged that the game had bugs in the pre-release build but mentioned that they should be fixed with a day-one patch, so hopefully most players shouldn’t encounter these issues.
Given the flaws with the gameplay and the bugs I encountered, you’d think that I would have really disliked my time with Red Colony... however, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed it. Listen, I can acknowledge that it’s not a particularly good game and it had some frustrating moments, but there was something weirdly charming about the whole experience too. Maybe it’s because I found the story so bafflingly-entertaining, maybe it’s because progressing through the environments and the puzzle solving was kinda fun, or maybe it’s because it’s short enough that I didn’t feel like I completely wasted my time with it? Who knows – either way, whilst I’ll happily acknowledge that Red Colony isn’t a good game, it still managed to provide me with entertainment.
I’d be remiss not to mention that Red Colony is considered an ecchi game, meaning there are plenty of over-sexualised moments to be found throughout. This is found in the text, character illustrations, the events that take place, and even the main menu where you can see a zombie hand fondling the breast of Maria – basically, if you’re easily offended or don’t like over-sexualisation in video games, you probably won’t want to go near Red Colony. Whilst I’ll admit that I didn’t find anything too offensive myself, there were one or two things that made me cringe a little.
I’m not going to pretend that Red Colony is a good game, because between the flawed gameplay and the bugs, it really isn’t. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining, with the absurdly intriguing story and character interactions (as well as a pretty short length) doing more than enough to keep me entertained during my playthrough.
It’s weird, it’s kinda crappy, and it’s buggy, but it’s charming too. Red Colony DEFINITELY won’t be for everyone, but if you do decide to give it a try, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised…
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC