Being a person who likes deconstructions of commonly used stories, I'm a big fan of what one might call "fractured fairy tales". Straight fairy tales are kind of plain and dull. Mixing up those tales and applying dark twists, or even just reality, to them...That makes them a lot more interesting.
As you can probably figure out from the title and the screenshot, this game starts out with the story of Little Red Riding Hood. You are given a basket by your mother and told to go through the forest to Grandmother's house, and not to stray from the path. Of course, that can't be all there is to it...
Looking at this game, I'm immediately reminded of The Path by Tale of Tales. Both feature the same basic plot, both are rather deceptive at first glance, and both will give you a so-called bad ending for following directions and staying on the path. But while I may have some issues with The Path and with its developers, I can say that it accomplished what it set out to do, and it handles the story of Red Riding Hood a lot better than this game does.
There are six unique endings to The Dark Side of Red Riding Hood: the aforementioned bad ending where you go straight to Grandmother's house, and five endings that you get by taking five respective side paths in the forest. For a game with multiple endings, the experience feels quite linear. The path you take is the only thing that affects your ending, and there isn't anything to do outside of getting each ending. Also, while I mostly like the endings themselves, most of them have no connection to what you did to get them. Two ending paths in particular, the first and fourth, start out identical, the only difference between them being the path you took before getting to Grandmother's house...but then they end up going completely different ways. And the bad ending you get for not straying from the path kind of just cuts off early, with what happens afterwards left up in the air.
The artwork is nice enough; I like the style of the cutscenes in particular. The soundtrack is only a few tracks, but I like all that I heard, and the game is kind enough to fade out tracks at certain points so it doesn't get too terribly repetitive. And there are good ideas here; if the game had fleshed out its story more, I feel like it would have been quite enjoyable.
On the whole, though, the biggest issue is that there's just not very much to this game. There are six different endings, but the way to each one is very short, and there's nothing else to do besides just go and get them. That, and the endings themselves don't fit well with what little you do in game, and tend to be rather inconsistent. You find out a rather important backstory detail for Red in one of the endings, but it doesn't factor into the other endings much, and it really should. One ending has another previously unmentioned character show up, but there's no word on why he showed up in only that ending and not the others. It feels like a bunch of pieces for a game instead of a game.
So in the end, I didn't really find the game to be worth it. It won't take up very much of your time if you want to give it a try; you could probably have all the endings within fifteen minutes. Maybe you'll just leave it open for the music like I'm doing right now. But the gameplay is disappointingly absent, and there just isn't enough content to keep me interested.
In fact, I think the most interesting thing is this shot here...
The Dark Side of Red Riding Hood is available for free download in English from the translator's blog, or in the original Japanese from Charon's website.
Final verdict: Despite good visuals and a lovely if small soundtrack, The Dark Side of Red Riding Hood has almost no gameplay or storyline, and is simply too little to sustain itself.
The Dark Side of Red Riding Hood is developed by Charon and was translated into English by Terriball. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.