Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood Review
A splash of Wizard of Oz, a blop of Red Riding Hood, and a dash of some southern accents
Available on: Steam
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Publisher: Headup, WhisperGames
While I have only played one game from Devespresso Games, I have been drawn to their games ever since I played The Coma: Cutting Class which absolutely terrified me at the time. Ever since then, I kept my eye on any of their releases and picked them up even though I didn’t end up playing them right away (which, I definitely should soon). Plus, they have an art style that really brings me in. And when their next game was announced, you better believe I was watching out for the release date to jump right on it. I was a little bit weary as it was originally supposed to be released in early access, but I got hooked when I tried out the demo and was happy that it turned out that it would be releasing as a full game after all. So, with this already released and out there, how is Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood?
Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood follows, you guessed it, Scarlet who dreams to be the star she believes she was meant to be. She happens to have gathered herself one heck of a band, calling themselves Foxtrot Bop, and they got their first big gig! Not to mention that they have a chance of being signed a deal as an agent (Savannah) from Wicked Records would be there. While they did end up being late and the threat of a tornado loomed over them, they managed to arrive just in the nick of time. And good thing too! Everyone there loved them, especially Savannah. However, Savannah only wants to bring in Scarlet and have her play with some people she already gathered. Conflicted, not knowing whether she should take the deal or stay with her talented boys, Scarlet tries to tell her band, only for them to find out and react in the very way she feared. They wouldn’t even let her get any word in! Despite not letting Scarlet explain the situation or realizing that she hasn’t even signed the contract (which, you can’t blame her if she does now), they leaves her all alone on the road. Well, except that tornado.
Much like Dorothy, this tornado ends up throwing Scarlet into a strange world that she soon learns is called Glome. It doesn’t take long for Scarlet to run into the, erm, skeleton of the old Red Witch and deemed as the new one and gets decked out with the signature cloak, Whomping Stick where the source of her new powers will resonate, and sadly only one heel (she’ll have to make do). She also finds herself protecting a Munchkin troupe, due to her ruining their safe passage, as they now how to go through the dreaded Wicked Wood where the Black Witch, Lefaba, will surely attack. And well, she does. Good thing Scarlet is experiencing some time loop (or recursion hex as it’s called here) or else she would be flat as a pancake.
So first order of business, find a way to get around Lefaba’s army with everyone unscathed. And to do that, she must go through various areas and find a way to get past the current roadblock. You can talk to Pippa, the fairy that more or less forced to help you, to get some ideas, but you must figure it out once you get in. Where you’ll be able to explore some really beautiful areas where you’ll find some puzzles that you have to solve and find some items (though, you’ll have to keep an eye out as the indicator is easy to miss). Some items are needed to progress through puzzles, but you can find consumables that will heal your wounds, afflictions, or help with Scarlet’s stamina; well hidden coins; mana gems that will show hidden interactions and the way characters went for a short time; and notes that give you more lore on the area and on where Seelie Shrines are (little tip, you need to use mana gems to find half of the ones in Lilliput Trail as they’re hidden from sight).
Of course, Lefaba won’t just let you wander around. Enemies will pop up every so often and won’t hesitate to hitting you if you’re caught in their line of sight. There are Dobodos on the ground with their menacing weapons, Monkeytas in the trees with their darts that will aim if you stand on the “X”s on the ground, and worse of all the Brer Wolf that will show up after you meet a certain criteria and will hunt you down. With only 5 hearts, you do have some wiggle room, but you can get your max health lowered temporarily or even poisoned. Luckily, there are ways to stay safe. As long as you have enough stamina, you can dash past these guys or use your evade move. The Brer Wolf, though, requires you to turn into a totem, but make sure you don’t do it in front of him as he’ll still attack totem you (and you don’t get knocked out of it when he does). It’s also best to keep an eye on your stamina, as running out will cause Scarlet to be too tired to even walk at her normal pace for a couple seconds. Using a mana gem will also attack Dobodos. To be honest, I didn’t really have much troubles with this unless I was being especially reckless. But if you happen to be, you can use the coins you find to purchase some more consumables if the free ones you’ll come across runs out quick.
In terms of puzzles, they range from easy to pretty hard. There are some that are easy to figure out and understand, others that you’ll know what to do but are hard in terms of requiring you to take into account multiple aspects (like making the making the needed pattern without any redundancies while keeping track of the wires connecting to the section that you need to do), to ones that don’t really make sense even when you have an explanation on what you’re meant to do.
Each of these areas actually have 3 different ways that you can find to get past your current roadblock. With each route having their own specific puzzles that you won’t come across if you go with a different choice and has a different outcome. Though, if you’re dead set on a specific solution, you do have to go through parts of others to get the needed items. You can either rescue the hero that found themselves trapped in that area by helping them recover, complete the Seelie Shrines (which require you to grab all of the associated notes even if you already know where it is) and power up your Whomping Stick, or do an alternate solution (which I’ll call trick). Once you complete one of these solutions, the chapter will end and you won’t be able to go back in so make sure you got everything you wanted.
This has a total of 10 endings you can get, with 8 of them having achievements attached to them. What you end up doing in each of the 3 areas will determine the ending you’ll get. If you rescued all of the heroes, if you only rescued one, if you did the Seelie Shrines, if you did the tricks, or a combination of solutions all have different endings attached to them which ultimately decide the fate of LeFaba, what Scarlet’s decision on that contract of hers and how that plays out, and the possibility of seeing what the heroes end up doing and if Scarlet reconciles with her bandmates. There is even an ending that sheds a bit more light on one aspect of the story that’s hinted at in the notes you can collect. However, for anyone that wants to see all of the endings, this will involve you replaying from the beginning. Well, almost beginning if you’re smart about it. As someone who has seen 8 of the 10 endings, do I recommend doing this? Well… not unless you want all of the achievements. I’d say at least get the endings where you have all of the same solutions so you can see all of the puzzles. Though, if you do want to get the majority of the endings, I do suggest advancing through Wispy Woods until you have all 3 possible solutions all ready to go, save, and keep that save intact. That way, you don’t have to do the whole prologue over and over again as well as this first area.
One thing is for sure though, I do wish this had a skip read dialog button.
Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood also ends on a note that gives it room for a sequel if the developers want to revisit this universe and show us who the other 5 witches are. Considering the endings show Scarlet’s success and relationships with her bandmates and they’re all pretty different depending on the ending, this will either result in one ending being the canon one (which, I can guess which one that would be) or have it focus on another character with Scarlet making an appearance. I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel especially if it means that we’ll get to see the other witches, but I guess time will tell if we’ll be getting a sequel.
When you complete certain achievements, you’ll also unlock some bonus backgrounds that you can switch in and out for the main menu. This includes beautiful CGs and even some cosplay photos.
I also ran into some loading screen crashes, which were especially annoying if I didn’t save for a while since I wasn’t expecting it to be the end of the chapter. It got better when I was going through the game again to get the other 7 ending achievements, which I have no idea why. The developers do know about this and have been putting out patches to help with this though. So for now, save as often as you can.
Despite some loading screen crashes that I ran into and some puzzles not being too clear on what’s needed, I did enjoy Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Wood’s story and had a good time playing through it. Well, the fact that I replayed it 7 more times should be a good indicator that I did. I did also like the addition of multiple paths you can take to get past the current enemy blocking the Munchkin troupe’s path and putting in that dash of southern charm alongside this fairy tale world certainly makes it stand out. So for those that like puzzle adventures, and don’t mind the possibility of being stuck on certain puzzles or looking up a guide for a few of the puzzles, this is a solid choice.