Wow is Red Colony a red hot mess. About the only thing that saves it is that it is so unpolished that it’s difficult to determine if its nastier edges were intended or simply because the developer that didn’t have a firm grasp on what they were doing. Ironically enough, because it is such a mess, it’s also entertaining in the same way that Edward Wood’s films are, and while we may still be looking for the Citizen Kane of videogames, we’ve absolutely found the Plan 9 From Outer Space of games with Red Colony.
It is, in theory, a perfectly adequate premise for a B-grade inspired horror game, and Red Colony is quite clearly inspired by both Resident Evil (as in the original on PlayStation) and B-grade exploitation horror. The problem isn’t so much in the source of inspiration as the execution, however, because:
3) The game is mechanically simple. This isn’t necessarily a criticism – in fact, for fans of the original Resident Evil, this game’s best feature is how carefully it emulates that style. Zombies move slowly (and just like in Resident Evil good players will have fun dismantling them with a knife). Puzzles require a lot of back-tracking and key-finding. There are even Resident Evil-like mini cut scenes every time your character opens doors and moves up and downstairs. Putting aside that none of the game is challenging (zombies aren’t much of a threat, puzzles offer a pretty clear trail of breadcrumbs), Red Colony works, albeit in a very simple and straightforward manner. It’s just as well that the game’s three hours long though, as I don’t think that there’s enough there mechanically to justify it being any more extended than that.
5) The swearing. I know the developer was aiming for a darkly adult adventure here, and violent language is a valuable tool in doing so. I’m also aware that Red Colony had to condense a lot of adult storytelling into a short runtime, so that probably forced the developers’ hand a little, but this game has a fairly juvenile sense of just how “awesome” it is to swear a lot. You know how if you repeat any word often enough it eventually loses all meaning? That’s basically how swearing works in this game.
6) The sex. Sex and horror, and sex and the B-grade genre, have a long and proud history of being thematically linked to one another. Certainly, Red Colony is right to explore that theme, but in execution, it’s like the developer went along to one lecture on the subject, learned how Dracula or the Monk has erotic elements, and left the class before the lecturer started talking about how the sex is used as a theme. In Red Colony, it’s just there. The women all have stupidly big boobs and in cut scenes they stand around in hyper-sexualised poses. As the protagonist takes damage her clothes rip, but that’s not a thematic element so much as something purely mechanical, because a healing item fixes her clothes right up too. Finally, the title screen of the game features the woman down to her underwear as multiple zombies grope and fondle her from behind a closed fence. The header image on this review is actually a tame version. The hands are in much more grope-y positions on the actual title screen. Again, there is no philosophical or thematic reason for any of this to be there. This isn’t Saya No Uta, where the explicit sex provides the foundation for the game’s critical themes. Red Colony’s treatment of sex as a topic is, apparently, a pure effort at titillation and that is not the reason sex is such an integral part of the horror genre. Even if you do find the art to be sexy, it doesn’t do anything to enhance Red Colony’s narrative or purpose.
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