You asked for a story driven adventure? Well, you got it
Developed by Stranga Games, Ashina: The Red Witch is a casual 2D pixel puzzle game which entered the Xbox library on 25th August 2023. With the emphasis on story-telling, adventure and exploration, Ashina offers a casual yet joyful single-player experience for a wide audience. It is available for PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Vita. The game is priced at €/$ 9.99 (at the time of writing on offer for €/$ 7.99).
A bit about Stranga Games
Stranga is a solo indie developer based in New South Wales, Australia, and is responsible for titles such as Red Bow, Just Ignore Them and My Big Sister. All of these games pretty much play alike and were on average well received by the gaming community. Let’s see what this game is all about.
Last stop: the afterlife
Ashina: The Red Witch is primarily a story-driven exploration game. Perhaps you could even call it a search and go fetch kind of experience. You play as Ash, as she and her sister Tena struggle to get to grips with the passing of their mother. One night after her sister Tena has left the apartment, Ash wakes up from her sleep only to find a ghost named Tanto inside he apartment. Tanto is a bit cheeky and steals the only memento Ash has from her mother, a pendant. Ash dashes off after Tanto to get the pendant back, only to end up on a bus-ride to the afterlife.
Let’s explore the afterlife, shall we?
As Ash arrives at the afterlife, she quickly finds out she has only a few hours to get the pendant back. If she doesn’t get the pendant back in time, she’ll be stuck in this afterlife.
During the story you’ll get a free glimpse into Japanese culture. You’ll encounter yokai, some urban legends from Japan, and some characters who want to trap Ash in their realm forever. However, most of these spirits are just curious about how you, a human, ended up among them. Most of the time they will help you out in your journey. Other characters are less friendly and you will want to get away from them as fast as you can. There are no actual threats to Ash during the game, but it feels differently.
The story is delivered through chapters, each chapter having it’s own objectives and goals. To progress through these chapters, you must search and recover key items and talk to specific characters. To get the full experience you want to talk to all characters and see what they have to say.
A lot of characters have something they want you to recover for them. As a result you’re up for a lot of exploration. While exploring, don’t be afraid to stray from the main path. Doing so will uncover side stories and new locations. The game is all about dialogue and character development, so don’t expect a new Gears of War or Halo.
Yes, finally a game that gets it!! When you have several items in your inventory and some need to be combined, you do not need to struggle to do so. This game combines items in your inventory automatically. So no more frustration figuring out what needs to be combined (and how!).
The dev has chosen a simple pixel-art style. The characters are all very simplistic in their design yet aren’t hard to tell apart at all. Each has their own look and feel. This game shines in the lighting department (sorry, pun intended). There is a clever use of light and shade used in the environment. It adds that little extra to the story I was hoping for.
I’m a bit in two minds about the audio. This game has some really good moments where audio is concerned. The music is sometimes upbeat, sometimes tranquil and sometimes there is silence. Those moments (on average) are very well chosen and really add to the atmosphere of the story.
On the other hand (and this is something personal!) the dialogue parts felt different to me. The tone tends to be somewhat repetitive and not really pleasant when it goes on for some time. The thing is, with this game there is a lot of dialogue!
Ashina: The Red Witch is a game that knocks it out of the park in regards to storytelling. It hooks you despite it being a rather short game. There is plenty of character development to keep you interested. You even get to pick up some tidbits of knowledge of Japanese culture. Audio in relation to the dialogue was not for me, but the music during the levels was above average.
- Nice pixelated graphics which add to the atmosphere of the story
- Great story-driven game. Even though it’s rather short, it hooks you!
- Music score during exploration
- Somewhat short