Woolfe is a 10-dollar game that features a great “fairy tale revenge story” concept and solid voice acting for the main character. Oh, and the music is pretty enjoyable, too. That’s all the good that can be said of this game, though, because everything else is a complete and utter disaster; from invisible walls to wonky hit detection and one of the floatiest, least precise combat systems I’ve seen in a game, the whole thing is a virtually unplayable mess. Then there are problems like the forced rhyming, awkward platforming, scripted boss fights, and checkpoint saves that leave you wishing you had spent your 10 dollars on something better.
The story is inconsistent
As you play through the game, Red (Riding Hood) narrates, filling in the details that led her to seek revenge in the first place. This would be fine if those details actually made sense when put together, but they don’t; in an early part of the game, she talks about how her mother disappeared after leaving a note about picking flowers in the woods, and she even questions one of the game’s rare bosses about whether he’s the one who took her or not. Later, she recalls a completely different set of circumstances where her mother and her were confined somewhere (a mine, I thought), and the mother died helping Red escape. These aren’t compatible stories unless Red was taken along with her mother, which she never indicates, and she would obviously know who kidnapped them if that were the case. Instead of anything that fits together, the game just vomits incoherent bits of story at you in the hopes that something sticks, but all this accomplishes is highlighting the laughably poor writing skills of the developers.
The only scenario in which all of the bits of story possibly fit together is if Red’s mother was pregnant with her when she was kidnapped, gave birth to her while in captivity, then never bothered to explain who they were kidnapped by. Oh, and Red would obviously have to avoid seeing any of her captors at any point between her birth and escape, and her father and granny would have had to be stupid enough to put her into school at the same time girls were randomly disappearing like Red’s mother did. It just doesn’t work without requiring massive leaps of stupidity, and the game ends with a “to be continued” before you’re given any concrete details on how things happened, leaving you with no reason to care.
The game is incomplete
If you buy this game, know that it’s part 1 of a 2-part story and that it ends on a cliffhanger “to be continued” before anything is resolved. Also know that the second half of the story isn’t going to be free despite this first half of Woolfe only lasting 3-4 hours at most. It’s incredibly disappointing to see indie devs subscribing to the same kind of money-grubbing practices that AAA game developers swear by.
(Update: the developer folded, so Woolfe will forever be an incomplete game.)
The short length is a good thing, though
Woolfe plays like a platformer/stealth/hack-and-slash mixture, and it somehow manages to screw up all three. Its platforming sections are marred by its awkward camera angles that make it difficult to gauge just how far back or forward you need to go for a jump. Its stealth is a simple sneaking system that slows down your movement and is thus used to avoid traps, but the hit detection is so poor that you’re bound to get hit by snares on the ground even when you’re nowhere close to them. The combat is probably the weakest of all three, though, full of enemies who can randomly kill you in a single hit, floaty movement, random teleportation in boss fights (see the last embedded video for an example of this), an awkward lack of weight to your attacks, and largely superfluous “magical” attacks that are only useful once or twice in the entire game. The whole thing adds up to a disaster that’s painful to have to play through.
You never know what kills you in one hit
One-hit kills are a serious problem in this game. Everything from spikes to random enemies can kill you in a single hit, and there’s no popup or tutorial that explains what can and can’t. No, you have to figure out what kills you in one hit through trial and error, something that’s made all the more frustrating by the lack of creativity in enemy types; most of the game is spent fighting strange nutcracker robots, and they come in three forms: blue, yellow, and electrical. The electrical ones look almost identical to normal blue ones, though, and are invincible. That’s right, invincible. You have to sneak past them, and again, this is stuff you have to figure out through trial and error, which is really annoying given how similar all the enemies look and how random the things that can kill you (versus what just damages you) are.
Invincible enemies are also a problem. For example, an early boss fight sees you going up against a giant sewer rat. Naturally, this rat is invincible and you’re bound to have to repeat the fight over and over again until you figure out that none of your attacks damage it. In fact, the whole thing is scripted so that the only way to proceed is to trick it into ramming against a gate you need to go through. Later on, you’ll face a similar situation with some wolves, only this time you’ll need to manually destroy said gate while avoiding taking damage from said wolves. Why can Red destroy one obstacle and not the other? I don’t know. Why is the rat indestructible while the pack of wolves aren’t? Again, I don’t know.
Checkpoint saves are the cherry on top
As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the game also has no manual saving. The only time it actually saves is when you’ve finished the entire level you’re playing. Sure, there are mid-level checkpoints that you’re returned to should you die, but exit out of the game before finishing the level and you’ll find yourself right at the very beginning of it. There’s no excuse for such a sloppy save system in a modern game, especially since even phone games manage to include manual saving now.
I haven’t even begun to cover the terrible things you’ll be subjected to in this game. How about forced chase sequences where you have to keep up with the camera and avoid getting stuck behind obstacles, many of which invisible, or else instantly die? Of course, that ties into the problem of sliding and how it only works if you have a certain amount of momentum (which makes the mandatory chase sequence that much worse if you make even a small mistake that slows you down). Oh, and then there are the sections that require you to drop down to a lower ledge, which Red sometimes grabs, but other times decides not to. All of that is bad, but I haven’t even mentioned the dialogue, which forces itself to rhyme and fails spectacularly, falling far short of the rhymed dialogue in Child of Light and instead becoming something truly forced and embarrassing.
The graphics are okay
Honestly, sometimes the graphics in Woolfe are actually pretty good. Great, even. Certain portions of the sewers certainly qualify, and the snowy early area is also pretty in its own way. That said, the blur effect and bloom effect become more and more overused, eventually overwhelming the game and completely undermining the graphics in the later levels. The animations are also pretty awkward, never being quite as fluid as you’d hope. I’d say it’s a mixed bag overall, with the visuals ultimately balancing out to be just okay.
The music and voice acting is good, though
Like I said at the beginning of this review, it features solid voice acting. I stand by that statement despite the overwhelming badness of everything else in the game, because while the dialogue may be cringe-worthy in its ill-advised attempts to rhyme, the voice acting for Red is much better than the game probably deserves. The soundtrack is also a highlight, being memorable and melodic and suiting the “fairy tale revenge story” concept. Really, the voice acting and music are the only things I can’t criticize, and that speaks volumes about the rest of the game.