Ever wonder which games you won’t be able to play when you’re 80? With Redie, indie developer Ruckert Broductions offers an answer. That’s not a knock against the title - a fun, slick little top-down shooter that offers surprisingly fortuitous depth. It’s more of a warning: you should give Redie a spin... while your reflexes are still sharp.
In the absence of a plot, Redie (pronounced “re-die”) is built with a straightforwardness that provides ample structure. Each level mimics a building floor, with bad guys scattered about the various rooms. Your goal is to kill them all, but it won’t be easy. Though some have better vantage points than others, they all react with rodent-like swiftness, mercilessly rushing towards you while firing bullets that kill with one hit. But when you die, you just hit a button and everything’s reset - the namesake “redie” function. It’s a formula that engenders both frustration and addiction, two things that never let up as the levels reveal new mechanics.
And these levels look nice. The cel-shaded aesthetic provides high contrast and plenty of color, but more importantly, it allows you to ascertain visual information as quickly as possible. Huge doorknobs, for example, betray which direction a given door will swing open, potentially offering valuable cover. The music gets you pumped without distracting you from the mission, dolling out techno beats that put you in a caffeinated zen. In contrast to the visuals and music, the sound effects are neither memorable nor particularly helpful. They don’t grate on the ears, and they’re delivered in high quality. But at the end of the day, they’re as disposable as player life.
As much as I would’ve appreciated a more unique soundscape, I wouldn't have time to soak it in because Redie demands every ounce of attention in your being. Even its quiet moments are stricken with tension as your eyeballs twitch across the map, desperate to identify every enemy, every opening, every exploit. You’ve died 10 times in the last 3 minutes, but not this time. You make your move, and blam! Redie.
This trial-and-error approach works when you’re learning the ins and outs of each level, but it’s unfortunately also required just to learn the universal aspects of the game. I’m referring to things like enemy line of sight, grenade physics, and bullet travel. A training mode would’ve allowed the player to learn these mechanics in a compartment separate from the scored game. Without it, the early levels suffer from an unintentional tendency to overwhelm the player.
Once you understand the mechanics, though, the strategy element becomes more focused and satisfying. With unlimited lives and a quick reset system, rushing into death is a great way to feel around for an area’s limitations and exploits. Other times, it’s important to sit back and watch the patrol routes first. Enemy behavior changes when they’ve noticed you, meaning that later levels demand several of these high-strung surveys. The tension ramps up at these eye-of-the-storm interludes, because death is no longer an attractive means of evaluation. Use your intuition and experience, and eventually you’ll succeed. And it's that tremendous sense of accomplishment that really makes Redie a solid title. As your stats appear, your satisfaction will be complemented by the darkly hilarious gap between the few minutes your successful run took and the amount of time you actually spent playing the level.
When determining your score, it’s nice that Redie doesn’t factor in the amount of times you’ve died. Still, a redie tally would’ve been nice just for posterity. More problematic is the fact that leaderboards are only detailed when they apply to you. In what comes off as an unreasonably strict measure against copying other players’ strategies, you’re only permitted to see their total scores. This becomes a problem similar to the lack of a training mode, because it means you have to mess around with levels just to know what garners points and what detracts them. The more attractive replay value actually comes from the side-challenges each level offers. If you’re really down for some punishment, try the ones that pose a time limit. I got some surprising mileage out of these, and I’d love to see more in the future.
At its core, Redie is an entrancing menagerie of grief and triumph. There are things it could have done better, especially when it comes to new players, but it succeeds where it needs to. More than that, it boasts an astounding ability to embrace tedium and turn it into something fun. Redie will test how much you can tolerate a difficult game, but you'll walk away satisfied. And again, play it while you're young and snappy.