Adaptations of a pre-existing story can be an extremely precarious endeavour, especially when it possesses an invested fanbase. Growing up, Brain Jacques’ world of anthropomorphic woodland creatures was my solace and escape from daily life. His ability to craft a world rich with history, heritage, mystery, and heroism could always allow me to disappear for just a little while. Needless to say, the Redwall universe will always have a special place in my heart. When news of the first officially licensed Redwall game, The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout was announced by Soma Games, Penguin Random House UK, and the Redwall Company I was exceptionally interested.
On the surface, The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout successfully taps into the Redwall universe. Our story is set six months prior to the events of the Brian Jacques first novel “Redwall”. The small woodland village of Liligrove known for its titular Liligrove Scouts has begun training a new group of recruits. Amongst these recruits is the stories main protagonist Sophia, who is fighting to earn her way into the scouts. Sophia’s induction and celebration ceremony go awry when a band of pirate rats, led by Scumsnout, attack leaving the town in peril. What ensues is a very Redwall tale of loyalty, bravery, and fighting hard to do what is right for those we love. All in all, it is a satisfying Redwall tale.
The visuals are polarizing
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I believe the animation style was meant to evoke a sense of storybook whimsy. Sophia’s character animations, the wiggling of her ears, the way she uses her tail, the facial expressions all ooze whimsy. However, while whimsy comes through strongly, the game is ultimately let down by the lower-resolution graphics. The game is beautiful but instead of a storybook, my mind could only see an aged, cheaper version of Everquest II.
Let’s talk about the mechanics
Mechanically the game still feels like it has a long way to go. The camera is really rough. Players cannot control where the game chooses to point their field of view, making navigation incredibly frustrating. The physical movement controls regularly feel squishy, slow, and at times unresponsive. During my playthrough of the final chase sequence, I encountered a session-breaking glitch rendering all jump commands useless. After multiple deaths and 10 minutes of frustration, it was only by performing a full game restart that I was able to successfully complete the level.
The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout also possesses a rather frustrating checkpoint system. I don’t mind long-distance checkpoints, however long-distance checkpoints plus a touchy system make for a frustrating experience. If Sophia touches the water, you “die” and are transported back to the last checkpoint. If Sophia takes a bad step and the game does not like it, you are transported to the previous checkpoint. The extreme ‘touchiness’ of the levels made simple movement irritating at times. At one point I merely stepped off a ledge causing a restart because the game glitched. It’s safe to say the save mechanic could use a bit more work.
Amidst all the frustration . . .
Despite all of the other frustrating items The Lost Legends of Redwall: The Scout does have a few redeeming features. The ‘scenting’ system is really neat. Smells are represented in the air by moving lines of varying colors. If you are tracking a person or an object you can watch the air and follow the appropriate color towards the target. Likewise, players must also pay attention to where the wind is blowing their scents as you can be tracked.
Soma games also do a great job of getting the Redwall ‘feel’ correct. As the voiceover begins, the varying animal dialects such as mole-speech and dibbun talk is simply perfect. Despite my frustrations with the mechanics, I did still enjoy my playthrough. For fans of the book series the game also possesses an amazing love letter to Brian Jacques with the inclusion of his tomb near the church. The game possesses a mausoleum depicting Jacques as a grandfatherly mouse. Surrounding his visage are quotations from his novels’ most beloved characters. This inclusion was a truly beautiful touch.
With all of this in mind, I probably wouldn’t recommend it for someone who is not a fan, but for Redwall diehards, it’s an enjoyable experience. If they manage to iron out some of the larger, more annoying issues I would not hesitate to pick up the second title The Lost Legends of Redwall: Escape the Gloomer when it arrives on Xbox in the near future.