Published on March 19th, 2017 | by Graham0
The Hunt for Red Panda Review
Summary: A neat twist on the hidden object genre, but it's let down by its repetitiveness and interface flaws.
The Hunt for Red Panda offers an interesting twist on the well-worn hidden object genre. Rather than simply scanning an image for a scavenger list of items, instead you’re working on restoring a series of paintings. You need to find details in the artwork that don’t belong, and remove them with your tools.
It’s a neat idea, and the developers have a lot of fun with it. Historical figures sport sunglasses and mohicans, and an outstretched hand may be clutching a walkie-talkie. Picnickers reclining beside a peaceful lake may have failed to notice the shark’s fin protruding from it. The embellishments are often done very well and integrated near-perfectly into the artworks, and it’s surprising how long it can take to spot how that 18th century window has modern-day Venetian blinds.
Sadly, though the core idea of The Hunt for Red Panda is fun, it’s let down a great deal by its execution.
For a start, there’s a lot of needless faff. You have four painting tools – a dropper, a brush, a scalpel, and an eraser (plus technically a fifth, a needle and thread that’s only used if you accidentally cut the painting). The core gameplay is this: you spot something that’s wrong in the painting. You make sure the dropper is selected, and click that item. It’s then coloured-in, using one of three colours, which tells you which tool you need to use – pink means it has to be erased, blue that it should be cut out with the scalpel, and white indicating it needs to be painted over with the brush. So you pick the corresponding tool, click the offending item, and it’s gone from the painting, replaced by the original artwork. The dropper is then automatically reselected – a small concession to usability. You’re forced to do each item one-by-one, and can’t say do a sweep with the dropper tool.
It sounds like a small deal, but the constant need to change tools becomes a real annoyance when it’s all you’re doing for the entire game. It’s busy work. You’ve already spotted the mistake in the painting, but unlike in a hidden object game where you can just click it and move on, here you have to do this awkward tool shuffle each and every time. There’s no real point to there being three separate tools either, as the end result is always the same – the object is gone, revealing the original painter. If the effect was to make me feel like a talented art restorer, well, it fails – after all, I’m just clicking a brush and then clicking a white space, I don’t have to do anything particularly skilled.
I think the developers realised there simply wasn’t enough to the game with spotting funny embellishments to a painting, so they added the tool shuffle in a misled attempt to make the player feel more involved. The other fly in the ointment, if you’re excuse the pun, is a literal fly that buzzes around continuously. It’s introduced with a message saying something like “Find the fly annoying? You can swat it away!” And yes, you can click it to swat it – but it’s back in, literally, a few seconds. It does nothing, except fly around being distracting in your peripheral vision. You don’t get any bonus for swatting it, or penalty for not. So yep, the developers added an element to their game whose entire point is to annoy you, just to give you something more to do.
The game features a tight time limit, in the form of a bar that constantly ticks down. Using your dropper tool also uses up the bar (so if you miss that fly while attempting to swat it, you also lose time), but it does replenish a little when you find a missing detail. With a few mistaken clicks you get around two minutes per painting, which is just barely enough, in most cases. There are a ton of details added to each, somewhere between thirty and fifty, and even though most are easy to spot, the dexterity required to constantly juggle your painting tools quickly enough means that, clicking as fast as I humanly can, I invariably have little time left when I come to the meat of each painting – spotting the few remaining truly tricky details. And unlike most hidden object titles it makes a terrible game to play with others, as most objects are so easy to spot that the challenge is simply removing them quick enough.
I really don’t know why they went with such a brutal time limit. It’s hard to enjoy the fun added details when you’re clicking through them as fast as humanly possible, and the end of each level, instead of being a satisfyingly tricky hunt, is stressful. I usually resorted to using the three available hints on each painting at this stage.
The difficulty is truly needless, as it’s possible to replay a painting as many times as you like. Each time you get the full three hints available again, and a little time on the clock. And, it’s necessary to 100% most paintings in a set to unlock the next, so you’ll need to do this more than once.
There’s a loose plot, where you’re investigating the trail of an snubbed artist who’s decided to deface multiple classics in galleries around the world. You’ll progress through seven in total – if you manage to complete the game. Personally, I quit around half-way through the fourth gallery, defeated by the repetitiveness, by the tedious difficulty, by the tool juggling, and by that damn fly. I estimate it’d take around six hours to complete.
Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that I’m not an art guy. The Hunt for Red Panda could be perfect for art fans, who may get a real kick out of seeing some favourites defaced in humourous fashion.