Dante’s Inferno has to be one of the most referenced works in popular culture. I could sit here listing off every film, TV show, and video game that tried to do its own “levels of hell” take, and it would be obsolete by the end because someone else would have made a new one.
So it’s always nice to see someone approach the idea in a way that’s somewhat novel. Red Tape, Pollaris Studio’s inaugural title, approaches this well-worn concept in a manner that is both true to its literary roots and also unique in its bizarre humor. But will the concept be enough to carry a game that’s light on mechanics?
Red Tape puts the player in control of a divine being - simply known as “The Angel” (technically a throne, by the looks of them) - kicked out of heaven for reasons not fully explained. After a brief orientation, the Angel discovers that hell isn’t quite what anyone expected - the famous nine circles have been replaced by a nine-story office building full of suit-wearing demons. As the latest “hire” at Hell Incorporated, the Angel is obligated to do the work of their new bosses, all the while trying to find a way back to heaven.
You’ll quickly find out that being a demon is a lot more corporate than you might have expected. As the new fiend, you’re stuck moving from floor to floor and doing whatever menial tasks come up. That might mean hopping across bottomless chasms to answer phones in customer service, stealing Cupid’s bow and using it to end a fight between managers, or rounding up followers for Hell’s Facebook page.
And as you’re carrying out all these mundane yet diabolical tasks, you may start to notice that not everything is right in hell. The lower plane is facing a financial crisis, and someone you’ve met might just be responsible.
By now, I’m sure you’ve figured out that Red Tape isn’t exactly a serious game. If you saw that DreadXP published it and expected something scary, then you may be in for a surprise as Red Tape is very much in the black comedy category. The game revels in surrealism and isn’t afraid to get outright silly at times. The graphical design speaks to this: While the environments feature the standard low-rez assets of indie horror, the demons and lost souls are depicted as paper dolls that wobble when speaking as if being manipulated by an amateur puppeteer.
Gameplay-wise, Red Tape is a fairly standard adventure title. Hell Incorporated is divided into three sections of three floors each, with each section having a manager that blocks entry to the next section. Complete all the tasks on the floors you can access, and you’ll be allowed to move on. Those tasks are generally quite straightforward, requiring the player to speak with NPCs and find key items that might be elsewhere in the building.
Also, there are some jumping puzzles. It is hell, after all.
The humor and weirdness are the major selling points for Red Tape, as the gameplay is quite limited. Red Tape has two significant weaknesses which are directly linked: It’s a very short game and the puzzles are easy. It’s a game that’s meant for a quick, breezy playthrough that will make you chuckle and maybe even think, but it’s not going to put your adventure game skills to the test.
But for a certain type of person, that humor is bound to be enough. There really aren’t any games designed quite like Red Tape, even within the often bizarre indie space. If you want to know if Red Tape is for you, watch the trailer on the Steam page. If you find yourself thinking “I don’t know what this game even is, but I really want to see what happens next,” then it’s definitely for you. Just don’t expect anything beyond what you’re seeing.
Red Tape is a short, narrative-driven adventure game with a heavy focus on surreal, dark humor. It's well-suited for anyone who appreciates the weird, but the humor will need to carry it due to its limited mechanics.
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