Oh man. Spaceships, am I right? Always running out of magic glowy crystals and crashing onto uninhabited planets, amirite?? It's like dudes and football, or ladies and shoe shopping! It's so true! *pause for laughter* ... okay, so maybe that doesn't happen quite so often. REDDER, by Dessgeega, is a retro platformer with a heavy emphasis on exploration. You're a lone astronaut (I like to pretend you were tracking down Metroids) who is forced to land on a strange planet when your ship's engine fails.
In REDDER (and it's more fun if you scream the title like that every time you discuss the game with someone), you control your mute astronaut with the [arrow] keys, tapping [up], [Z], [shift], or the [space] bar to jump. Hit [M] to open your map, which will also let you warp back to your ship if need be. There's a mute button on the map menu, but the game's ambient, vaguely industrial soundtrack provides a fitting background to your adventure.
Your goal on this labyrinthine planet is to track down all of the gems you can so you can eventually power your spaceship and escape. Avoid enemies, lasers, and electric fields, since a single touch from one spells DOOM. Well, provided your idea of DOOM is to be sent back to the last checkpoint you triggered; REDDER automatically saves your game with every gem you collect, and whenever you touch a checkpoint. (The small white "televisions".) After all is said and done, you're probably going to have earned yourself a nice space-vacation on a tropical space-beach somewhere, sipping space-Mai-Tais and playing space-volleyball.
Analysis: While comparisons are already being made with cult classic Knytt, REDDER actually puts me more in mind of Saira or VVVVVV, minus the story of the former, and the heavily symbolic design and gravity mechanic of the latter. Also known as Auntie Pixelante, or Anna Anthropy, Dessgeega is also the creator of the much more difficult When Pigs Fly. By contrast, REDDER is much less likely to make you want to take a knife to your speakers, or break something. The gameplay is slow and atmospheric, with a large emphasis on just exploring your surroundings. Which, thanks to the large map and simple controls, feels appropriately vast.
In fact, the only thing that really keeps me from wanting to be Bee Eff Effs with REDDER is the lack of diversity in its environments. The area design becomes more elaborate as you go deeper, and the lasers/robots/force fields/ham sandwiches are used to greater effect, but none of it is what you would call exciting. Each new area is sort of interesting, I guess, but the differences are largely superficial; different building material or colours. Whether you're running through one area or another, you're going to encounter the same sets of obstacles.
Well, okay, not exactly the same. Because here is where REDDER shines; by adding new layers of complexities to established challenges. It's incredibly well thought out, and while I would have still liked a bit more deviation from the standard "time jumps past enemies/lasers/mimes", I'm still taken aback by how big and tightly designed it all is. Since you can go anywhere and do everything right from the start, with no abilities to unlock, you can strike out in whatever direction you want, and collect the gems in whichever order you like. If you can see a gem, you can probably reach it just by poking around in the surrounding area. In this way, REDDER eliminates a lot of the annoying backtracking that plague other similar titles.
REDDER is an ambitious title, and succeeds more than it fails. If you demand fast-paced, action-filled gameplay, you're probably going to be bored by the content on offer here. But for those of you who like to take your time and seek out every nook and cranny, REDDER delivers a sizable chunk of well-made game. Once you've finished it, there really isn't any replay value to keep you coming back, but fans of the increasingly popular retro style of games will find a lot to enjoy here.