The Red Star

Lost & Found: The Red Star

The first of our series on forgotten classics looks at this arcadey slice of Soviet might & magic

I remember wincing when Acclaim went bust. Not because of the job losses, perhaps, although that stuff's always sad. Not even because a storied piece of my childhood had just collapsed, like a lighthouse on an eroded spar of cliff-face, crumbling into the sea. I winced not for others but for myself: now I would never get to play The Red Star.

The Red Star

The Red Star

Soviet bloc, parry, finishing move.

Alert! Alert! The Red Star's box comes complete with an enthusiastic quote from our very own adorable site. "Ingenious and fresh," we call the game. B...but I haven't even reviewed it yet! What madness is this? Worry not, readers, the publishers have simply performed that age-old underhanded trick of turning conjecture into criticism, and pulled words out of a preview. We're above such tactics, though. The only reason I wanted to bring it to your attention is that these words were written in 2004, nearly three whole years ago. At this point, I think we can discount "fresh."

Given that timespan, it's not hard to surmise that the game's had something of a troubled history. Put on the back burner when original publishers Acclaim went under (probably for another insane publicity stunt in which they tried to create the face of Turok using only the artfully posed bodies of a thousand naked fat men), it languished in limbo, before finally being picked up and released by Take-Two's XS games label in a stripped-down budget form. That spells cynical, get-it-out-for-some-quick-cash reasoning in anyone's book, yet surprisingly, despite spending so long in development, and coming out as scaled-down as it is, it's actually fared pretty well. Despite several flaws, its potential has obviously been realised, and the game's a pretty enjoyable effort as far as I'm concerned.

Exactly how stripped-down is it, though? Well, for those not aware, this is a game based on an Eisner Award-nominated comic (I read that on the back of the box as well. Er, not that that's how I conduct my research of course; there's Wikipedia, too.) in which an alternate Russia has become a competent superpower through the use of might and magic. It layers a colossal, industrial Soviet war machine on top of pseudo mystical sorcery, in a plot of heroes, despots and huge flying mega-ships. Created by Christian Gossett, his art style utilises a blend of traditional pen and ink and computer generated graphics to produce a distinctive visual style.

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The Red Star

It's not often these days that we get to play scrolling beat-'em-ups or scrolling shoot-'em-ups. In The Red Star, we've found both.