Indie VN developers, Vagrant Muffin already have two games under their belt, Fool’s Helper and Lucky Days, but, I’ve only played the former, and for what it’s worth it’s a pretty fun game. So, when I saw that they’d just released the demo for their mystery romance visual novel, Red Wolf Hiding, I made a bit of time in my schedule to give it a playthrough.
After a yearlong undercover mission, Janet Dover (name changeable) is now assigned to Gerald Reeve’s team. Headquarters believes there’s a traitor in the ranks, leaking information to a dangerous enemy known as the “Wolf”.
Her job is to find the traitor, but what else will she learn along the way?
I can honestly say this promises to be a quite the undertaking, with six romanceable characters each with three distinct endings, and a mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat… this game hits all my gaming qualifications!
Red Wolf Hiding has more than a few allusions to the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale: the protagonist is nicknamed ‘Wolf’ and not more than five minutes in, one of the love interests, Gerald goes on at length about the similarities between the fairytale and the mole situation plaguing their team and the police department. Hell, it’s even in the title of the game, but rather than playing it straight with their fairytale origins like Alice in the Heart or Cinderella Phenomenon, Red Wolf Hiding keeps things grounded in reality, while throwing subtle homages in here and there.
The bulk of the demo focuses on the efforts of the protagonist, Janet Dover, a she attempts to suss out which member of Gerald Reeve’s team is secretly working for notorious crime boss, Mark Wolfe. There are six romanceable characters, and I have to give it to the Vagrant Muffin team, for having a diverse cast of characters and if you’ve read my other reviews, you know how much I love seeing POCs in my games!
Each of the characters are well fleshed out, with unique quirks and personalities, though I will admit that I am in love with Emmett! He is such an adorkable nerd! In the demo you spend a fair amount of time with all of the characters, save Mark Wolfe (since he’s the “villain”) and Gerald takes on more of a mentor like role in the common route, so I wasn’t feeling the love on that front. Gotta give props to the leading lady, Janet, OELVNs are known for having stronger MCs and Red Wolf Hiding doesn’t disappoint. She isn’t some meek damsel in distress, she is a capable detective who isn’t above pulling rank when she has to.
Story wise, I like that they gave us a detective/mystery romance VN, since most of the games on the market are either supernatural romances or high school romances, and nothing wrong with that, but it’s nice to have some variety! The premise of the game is similar to Voltage Inc.’s Liar Uncover the Truth, the player spends time with a group of characters and attempts to uncover which one is the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, but where the endgame for Liar was primarily focused on finding a potential lover, in Red Wolf Hiding, the romance aspect seems to play second fiddle to the overarching mystery plotline.
The art was really clean, the backgrounds are solid but nothing that really jumped out at me or especially wowed me. The character designs were great, as I mentioned before this is a pretty diverse cast, with Kent Chun and Beau Guillaume, standing out as the most, the former being on the heftier side and the latter being my much desired sun kissed love interest. But, based on the last names of some of the characters, they each come from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. The sprites are well designed with some basic animation and varying facial expressions and character poses. The music is pretty simplistic, restricted to bass heavy instrumentals, that sound like something you’d hear in a hipster bar or during the chase scenes of a Law and Order episode, but it does give the game a much more mature feel, so it’s cool. There wasn’t much in the way of additional features, since the demo only covers the common route/prologue, so don’t expect any special gimmicks or additional features… and there were no obtainable CGs (though there will be quite a few in the final release of the game.
Overall, I liked the demo for Red Wolf Hiding, it doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, just your run of the mill VN gaming experience, but that allows the story to really shine. The detective/mystery premise is definitely one that will appeal to a wide range of gamers, especially those that tend to shy away from otome and romance themed games. Throw in the phenomenal Heroine, Janet, and the well rounded cast of diverse love interests, and you have what promises to be a rather entertaining game! I’ll definitely be checking out the final release of the game, but, if you’re still not convinced, I urge you to check out the demo for yourself!
Dev Blog: Something Ventured
Official Twitter: Vagrant Muffin