If I had to pick an absolute favourite genre of game from the myriad options out there, I’d probably struggle to choose between looter-shooters, party-based RPGs and Metroidvanias. I’ve played more of the latter in the last few years than any other genre, certainly, and I rarely pass up the opportunity to try a new one. REDSHOT (and yes, the title is stylised in capitals) is the result of seven years’ of development by solo dev Bryan Lynch, and it plays superbly.
It follows the quip-talking exploits of Jack “Goose” Redshot, a special agent for the Galactic Defence Force. Goose is kind of a free-roaming professional space hero, assigned to help out wherever he’s needed at a given time. When he receives a distress call from the besieged planet Carcosa, he’s told to respond and do what he can to help. Unfortunately, his ship is shot down and Goose ends up stranded, with no way to contact the GDF and no way to leave. His only option is to pick a side in the war for Carcosa and save the day – and himself, in the process.
While the story is by no means original or even surprising, the writing is pretty fun. When Goose first lands he’s taken in by a father and his son, who point him in the right direction before enemy forces show up and start destroying their house. There’s something darkly comical about watching these block-headed pixel art characters emote over a sudden tragedy, especially when Goose is off blasting chunks out of the scenery again seconds later.
That said, REDSHOT is a good-looking game. The old-school art style serves the frenetic, bullet-hell gameplay well, while there’s enough diversity and detail in the various environments that the visuals don’t become stale. However, this being a Metroidvania, you will be re-treading old ground quite a bit. As you progress you’ll find locked doors and impassable obstacles that you’ll find solutions for later. Gravity gloves for wall-clinging, jet boots for double jumps – you know the drill by now. Each new tool you find opens up multiple routes to secrets, new weapons, merchants and side concerns.
Gameplay is often insanely busy. There are multiple enemies that can come at you from any direction, with accurate projectiles or difficult-to-avoid charge attacks. Glowing balls of plasma and laser blasts hammer you constantly, and you’ll need quick reflexes to stay alive. To balance it out a little, you can activate bullet time with certain actions, which bleeds your stamina and forces you to use it somewhat sparingly.
You can equip two weapons at a time and carry more in your inventory, though you’ll begin with very limited space for guns or consumables. For all the apparent madness of the combat, switching weapons and items is easy and the gunplay is incredibly satisfying and fast-paced. My biggest gripe is that the well-designed action often feels at odds with the exploration. Enemies will respawn when you leave an area for a while, and as you’re backtracking so much it means you’ll be fighting an awful lot, often while trying to work out where to go next.
The campaign isn’t open, you do have a path to follow although it branches regularly, and there were times when it took me a while to work out exactly how it wanted me to proceed. During these moments, the combat started to feel like an intrusive chore because I was trying to read the map and plan ahead and kept having to wipe out rooms of enemies first. It’s not quite as intuitive as it needs to be, although you’ll rarely stumble down a new path without finding something worth picking up or someone worth talking to.
REDSHOT balances much of this frustration with its charming quips and location variety, and intersperses the action with boss fights that feel challenging but are ultimately beatable with a little perseverance. If there’s a real grumble to be had it’s that the story concludes with some pretty shameless sequel-bait. I wasn’t truly invested enough in the characters for it to ruin anything, but it would have been nice to see a little closure to this story before hooking us up for the next. It won’t be a major issue for many, but I’m sure some won’t be happy.
What REDSHOT lacks in subtlety it makes up for in mayhem and likeability. It’s not the most precise or compelling 2D Metroidvania I’ve played, but the slick combat, quippy dialogue, satisfying exploration and competent implementation of bullet time make up for its occasional frustrations.
Not always clear where to go
Story isn't great