the artistry and psychology of gaming




Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, we have a brief stopover on our way to the restaurant at the end of the universe.


Alright, down and to the left for the morph ball, and... oh, never mind

Genre: Navigation Platformer
Link to Game:
Game Info: Published on Newgrounds in March 2010 by dessgeega (Auntie Pixelante), as of this writing holding a current score of 4.19/5.00.

M-A-R-S. Mars! Red Rocks! We’ll get there eventually, be it an elaborate global effort to colonize as a possible escape plan beta for this polluted mess we call home, or a leisure cruise available to the 1% of the 1% that might take a seat on Virgin Galactic. In the meantime, all we have to go on are photos, physics, and our own creative exploits, flawed as they may be. Everyone from Chuck Jones to H.G. Wells to David Bowie has at some point fixated their creative talents on our neighboring planet to capture an idea, often pulling us into something that is ultimately very human in the process. And this is not a side-effect not lost to the game Redder, a casual little title that lands a small astronaut on the surface for a single purpose.

That purpose: Take this blasted planet for all it’s worth!

That’s what we do as a species. We consume. We take, we take some more, and when we can’t take anymore, we take from somewhere else. In this case, it’s an alien planet. Perhaps that sounds a bit heavy-handed for a half hour flash game, but really, that’s about it. You land, you harvest some jewels, and you take off. Within the game, you’re tasked with navigating the subterranean landscape by way of a panel-by panel open-world 2D platformer, in order to grab some Martian gems, and nothing else. Greedy humans, will they ever learn?

If this were VVVVVV, this would be so easy right now

OK, so maybe it’s not as cut and dry as all that. At least the planet gives itself a fighting chance to stop you from stealing all its treasures. Each of the rooms are well interconnected and labyrinthine in design, to the point where even if you find the gems, you may not understand how to collect them. The game also employs a two color toggling door system that adds an extra puzzle element to the maze, where you won’t open doors without closing others, as well as a host of Martian defenses (robots, turrets, and laser grids) to keep you on your toes.

Now, some may look at this game and immediately identify its similarities with Samus’s side-scrolling adventures in the Metroid Franchise. There are several key differences though that keep this game away from its Metroidvania brethren, and they are primarily tied to the game’s progression. First, Redder has no upgrades, or no paths that become available later due to an upgraded inventory. Much as how the game’s title can be read backwards and forwards (don’t think I would let a pallendrome get by without calling attention to it), the player is free to travel in any direction they wish. All of the world’s corners are available from the start, and provided you’ve toggled the correct door colors, and found the correct path, you can get anywhere you need to go to collect the gems in any order.

The second deviation is that while there is evasive action within the game in dealing with the robots and turrets, the astronaut never goes on the offensive, and has no available weapons. The astronaut can run, jump, check the map, and that’s it. This helps keep the focus on terrain navigation and planning ahead, with any action moments to be supplementary bonuses. The astronaut can die from the action (in a sudden burst of pixels), however it’s never too frustrating or punishing as similar to other games like VVVVVV, save points are frequent to get you right back for another try.

What’s really great about Redder is how well each of its components contribute to the overall product. The concept of the game is strong, and built around simple yet effective controls. The visual design of the game captures fairly well the isolation and despair that is commonly found in the Metroid Games, and the music is eerily suiting for the adventure. While animations are minimal, there is nothing that detracts from the overall experience.

The only thing that I really object to is the sound mixing, as it’s somewhat imbalanced. Music comes in fairly soft, but whenever you collect a gem, the sound jumps up considerably with a speaker-crackling ping noise, that if I wasn’t a fan of the music, I would have chosen to mute the game completely.

Different sections have some variation in style, but the same gameplay can be found in each

One thing that many people may at first assume is a glitch, but is in fact part of the game has to do with the ending and the game’s graphics. As you progress through the game collecting more and more gems, you may start to notice a few graphical hiccups in the terrain around you. Collecting more gems will make those glitched borders and sprite swaps become even more prevalent. Collect all but a few, and you’ll be wondering who spilled soda on your keyboard. The graphics really take a hit once you find the last gem, where everything just becomes a rectangle as if you’ve de-evolved into a 2600 release. Frankly I’ll just assume it was that the gems were some sort of power supply for the planet, and that you are being symbolically punished for your human greed.

Redder is a game about exploration, where looking to find every nook and cranny takes precedence over the jumping and dodging also found within. The game is surprisingly complex in its layout, despite it being a grid of panels with no locks or keys. It’s an experience that is ambitious in its trust in the player to solve, and a very worthwhile diversion to run through while we wait to harvest Mars’ resources for real (or at the very least, send Ice Cube there to kick some butt).

One Comment

  1. I just finished this, and it was magnificent. It was very atmospheric, and it actually became hard to watch the beautiful planet gradually self-destruct as I completed my goal.

    Auntie Pixelante is something else, too; thanks for turning me on to her.

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