Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood Review – Hexes and Puzzles

    Title: Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood
    Developer: Devespresso Games
    Release Date: April 8, 2021
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Headup
    Genre: Adventure

Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is a new adventure game from Devespresso, who previously released The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters and Vambrace: Cold Soul. This new adventure includes the gorgeous art the team is known for and throws players in a forest to solve puzzles while keeping true to the horror themes they are known for.

Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood introduces us to Scarlet, the vocalist of a band called Foxtrot Bop, along with her three friends. One day after a big concert that could change her life forever, she’s hit by a tornado and ends up in weird fantasy land.

After causing some trouble to a Munchkin troupe, she has to help them find a safe way through the Wicked Wood. Unfortunately, that won’t be so easy since she’ll have to face the Black Witch who commands the many evil creatures in this area.

Enemies encountered throughout the journey are exceptionally powerful, so when attempting to confront the situation, she dies. However, thanks to the regalia of the Red Witch, Scarlet has the chance to relive the day and find a way to proceed.

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Each chapter has the player explore an area in the woods, including towers, caves, and a few landmarks. While wandering through those places, it’s possible to find various items, some of which are consumable, while others are key pieces to solve puzzles and advance.

The game’s main difficulty is understanding those puzzles, as it prefers not to tell the player what to do. Opting instead to show only a few visual cues to the answer. However, they were projected well, as understanding their logic is mostly intuitive and not much trouble.

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As the player progresses through the areas, enemies pop up from time to time. To deal with those annoying pests and get to your next destination, it’s possible to consume some magic and quickly attack them. On the other hand, players are also able to use stamina to run and dash past them.

Out of all the confrontations, the big wolf is the toughest and most dangerous enemy, appearing a few times through the game. Unlike the others, he’ll follow Scarlet wherever she goes, even if the screen changes. After running away for some time, the most efficient way to lose him is to hide using a spell that turns Scarlet into a totem.

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One interesting aspect is that the areas aren’t linear. Instead, after completing some puzzles, the player can choose between different ways of solving a particular issue. For instance, the first areas have strange people who need help. If you decide to focus on them, they’ll be powerful allies in your aid.

However, you can opt for a more practical approach and do something by yourself instead. Your actions will change the course of the story as well as its ending. This also means that the player can’t do all puzzles, as you’re forced to leave the area as soon as one of the requirements is met.

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A few things particularly struck me as odd, such as the soundtrack. A good portion of the game doesn’t have any background music, and some of the tracks used are subdued enough not even to be noticeable.

Despite its lengthy text, the game doesn’t feature a skip option, which would be helpful when replaying the areas for alternate endings. In the visual department, the exaggerated expressions during cutscenes felt weird, but the lunacy and weirdness may be intentional for all I can tell.

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Thankfully that doesn’t detract from the gorgeous character design and general quality of the 2D art. Every character, both from the modern and fantasy sides, is full of personality. Exploring the woods as Scarlet sporting stocking-clad legs is something that merits appreciation, but it’s impossible to ignore that.

The game has some collectibles, such as hidden notes, which detail the lore a little further. As a reward for actions such as completing the game, it’s possible to obtain wallpapers for the main menu. There are multiple illustrations and even photos of a cosplayer wearing the Red Witch regalia posing as Scarlet.

I should mention that I faced a few game crashes during my experience, especially when the game was loading new scenes. I imagine and hope that this will be fixed soon, maybe even before release, but it’s only a minor setback as long as the player saves often.

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Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood is a solid adventure game. It features gorgeous art and intuitive puzzles with the curious concept of multiple paths depending on your actions. A few mechanics could definitely be refined with added optimization, but fans of the genre will easily have fun during this adventure as Scarlet.

Score:
7.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.