There’s something to be said for a game that puts style above all else. It is always a risky proposition for both developers and publishers. A sleek user interface and unconventional visuals can quickly turn off an audience that would have given you money for something more conventional. Sometimes developers can’t make more than one game before they go bust around this time. That’s why I always respect a game like i see red from Whiteboard Games and Gameforge. This is a twin stick shooter with roguelite elements, graphics straight out of the Sin City, and an attitude that would have fit the original Xbox era. However, after a great first impression, all the little problems with a game built for style over substance begin to bubble to the surface, making me wish I was playing a nostalgic favorite instead of this lackluster modern pretender.
can’t deny that i see red starts strong. You play as a space warrior whose appearance reminds me of Marvel’s Starlord, wielding laser pistols and shock batons against a horde of faceless opposition. You crash into an enemy ship with guns blazing and take out a soldier in an incredibly satisfying way to summon the title card. You learn about the intriguing mechanics of the grappling hook and feel how heavy weapons feel when you fire them, all with the promise of random levels and varied arcade challenges. It’s a great demo, and that promise is what initially drew me to the game.
Unfortunately, i see red cannot live up to that initial impression. The first thing to go were thoughts of roguelike progression. Whiteboard Games has technically designed a roguelite experience, but is very light on the elements that make the genre sing. You choose from a set of seemingly preset encounters each time you start a new run. Instead of random weapon drops and unknown dangers ahead, i see red it’s a linear experience that plays into popular roguelike game tropes. This change drastically changes my expectations of what to expect from a game. A rogue of any kind can get away with repetition and tired storytelling because the thrill lies in taking on new challenges and knowing that he may never see the same room twice. When compared to other top-down direct shooters, i see red it loses points across the board.
Even if it was more along the lines of roguelikes, i see red runs into a snag that trips up many games trying to take the endless dungeon approach. Outside of the excellent tutorial, i see red it has very little room for players to get good at playing. It shoves you right into the fire with a limited set of weapons and healing boosts and asks you to do it, only becoming fair once you get past this initial frustrating hurdle. Fatalities are common, progress is minimal, and the fact that every level repeats makes you feel every extra second it takes to reload menus before you’re back in the action. Everything from battle royale games to collectible card games give new players a friendly path to success, and I’m not sure why roguelikes and the games that admire them can’t figure out how to manipulate their RNG to do the same.
Thankfully, i see red Not everything is wasted potential. Once you get past the early stages and see more variety in the weapons, the combat begins to sing in a way that it doesn’t in the early hours. The fact that your astronaut can grab weapons, healing items, and empty crates around each arena is an interesting addition to the familiar game. The fact that you can also throw those boxes to take out goons is chaotic in a way that I really appreciate. What’s disappointing is that nothing beyond that grappling hook demands my attention as I go through the motions. The bits of narrative you pick up as you go are run-of-the-mill, and the close-ups of player models in these few moments of narrative explain why the camera usually hangs so far from the action.
i see red It’s not a big-budget production, and Whiteboard Games has done a great job of hiding its game’s visual flaws with an aesthetic that stands out from the crowd. The closest comparison I could give is Hatreda game more known for its unfortunate edgelord theme than for its attractive graphic design. i see red doesn’t have the shine Hatred, but it evokes the same sentiments of doling out carnage in a context that may be a little softer among the general public. Still, the black and white and red visuals obfuscate some vital gameplay elements that led to cheap kills in my many runs. Some of the barrels and crates scattered around each space station are flammable or explode, as is the case in most space fantasies. The problem is that his red glow blends in with everything else going on in the game, meaning he was lobbing explosives at point-blank range and destroying me in the process on more than one occasion.
This overwhelming style also blends into the game’s playable menus, set on a home ship sailing through the cosmos. Your character has to walk the ship to find everything you’d expect on a regular menu, and there are no labels throughout the experience. Even exiting the game is hidden behind a movie poster in a Netflix space menu that only suggests putting your adventure behind you for the time being. It’s all very clever once you get the hang of it, but it throws you off without warning the same way the game does when you start your first few firefights. Maybe I’m just bothered by how little time I have for gaming outside of work obligations, but I prefer it when there’s an artistically satisfying option and a way to get to what’s supposed to be good at the push of a button.
Maybe i see redThe biggest flaw with is that it seems to be designed for touch screens first and traditional controls second. Instead of aiming with the right stick, as you’d expect from a dual-stick shooter, i see red block enemies, pickups and more as you rotate your player character’s aim. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s anything but accurate in the heat of battle, especially when weapons drop from a horde of enemies and your fire is aimed at a pistol rather than the abdomen of your next target. It makes single-shot weapons like the shotgun immediately less useful because a missed shot means you take a lot more damage than if you were just using your pistol or grabbing a crate to an enemy’s head.
Once I set up the controls, this unique choice worked for my time with the game on the Steam Deck and its touch screen. Touching enemies and moving things out of the way felt much more fluid in this environment, and i see red it could work much better on mobile devices at some point in the future. Still, my preferred method for any game is a controller, and i see red It appears with full controller support on its Steam store. With the way the target locks onto enemies and fiddles with menus, I can’t see how that can be the case.
I see red review | Verdict
i see red I was disappointed by all the potential I saw in his demo. The energy and attitude of the opening section made me think the game could be something special, but every hour I spent on the final product lowered my expectations further. Despite some fun combat and excellent grappling mechanics, it’s hard to recommend a game that feels divided between platforms, at least on PC. Maybe the game will release on a platform more suited to this game, or maybe someone will like the game a lot more with more time on the Deck. As for me, I just see minutes being wasted as I try to find the fun in a frustratingly stylish but ultimately generic shooter.
Tech Raptor reviewed i see red on PC via Steam and on the Steam Deck with a publisher-provided copy of the game. The game is also available on the Epic Games Store.