I See Red Review

Published: October 24, 2022 7:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

I See Red's key art features gunfire and action in its signature red tint.

There's something to be said about a game that puts style above all else. It's always a risky proposition for developers and publishers alike. A fancy user interface and nonconventional visuals can quickly turn off an audience that would have given you money for something more conventional. Sometimes, developers don't get to make more than one game before they go belly up in this day and age. That's why I always respect a game like I See Red from Whiteboard Games and Gameforge. This is a twin stick shooter with roguelite elements, graphics straight out of Sin City, and an attitude that would have fit the original Xbox era. However, after a great first impression, all the little problems with a game built for style over substance begin to bubble to the surface, making me wish I was playing a nostalgic favorite rather than this lackluster modern pretender.

There's no denying that I See Red starts strong. You play as a spacefaring warrior whose looks remind me of Marvel's Starlord, wielding laser guns and shock batons against a horde of faceless opposition. You crash into an enemy ship guns blazing and take out a soldier in an amazingly satisfying manner to summon the title card. You learn about the intriguing grapple hook mechanic and feel how weighty the guns feel when you shoot them, all with the promise of randomized levels and varied arcade challenges. It makes for a great demo, and that promise is what initially drew me to the game. 

Unfortunately, I See Red can't live up to that initial impression. First to go was the thoughts of roguelike progression. Whiteboard Games has technically designed a roguelite experience, but it's very light on the elements that make the genre sing. You pick from a set of seemingly preset encounters whenever you start a new run. Instead of random weapon drops and unknown dangers ahead, I See Red is a linear experience that plays at popular tropes of rogue games. This shift drastically changes my expectations for what to expect from a game. A rogue of any stripe can get away with repetition and threadbare storytelling because the excitement lies in meeting new challenges head-on and knowing that you may never see the same room twice. When judged against other straightforward top-down shooters, I See Red loses points across the board.

Top down view of gameplay in I See Red
The battlefield quickly fills with debris, pickups, and other knickknacks that can steal your aim from its intended target.

Even if it were more in line with roguelikes, I See Red hits a snag that trips up many games trying to go for the endless dungeon approach. Outside the excellent tutorial, I See Red has very little room for players to get good at playing. It shoves you right into the fire with a limited set of weapons and healing power-ups and asks you to make due, only becoming fair once you get past this initial frustrating hurdle. Deaths are common, progress is minimal, and the fact that all the levels repeat makes you feel every extra second it takes to reload into the menus before you get back to the action. Everything from battle royale games to trading card games gives new players a friendly path to success, and I'm not sure why roguelikes and games that admire them can't figure out how to jury-rig their RNG to do the same.

Thankfully, I See Red isn't all lost potential. Once you get past the first couple of stages and see more variety in the weapons, the combat starts to sing in a way it doesn't in the early hours. The fact that your spaceman can grapple weapons, healing items, and empty boxes around each arena is an interesting new wrinkle on familiar gameplay. The fact that you can also hurl those boxes to take out goons is chaotic in a way I very much appreciate. What is disappointing is that nothing beyond that grappling hook demands my attention as I go through the motions. The crumbs of the narrative you collect as you progress are run-of-the-mill, and the close-up shots of the player models in these few storytelling moments explain why the camera usually hangs so far out from the action. 

Graphics and gameplay I See Red
Without the black and white pizazz, I See Red would lose a lot of its charm.

I See Red isn't a big-budget production, and Whiteboard Games have done great work hiding their game's visual flaws with an aesthetic that stands out from the crowd. The most similar comparison I could give is Hatred, a game more known for its unfortunate edgelord theming than its attractive graphical design. I See Red doesn't have the polish of Hatred, but it does evoke the same feelings of dishing out carnage in a context that may go down a little smoother among general audiences. Still, the black and white and red all-over visuals obfuscate some vital gameplay elements that led to cheap deaths in my many runs. Some of the barrels and boxes littered around each space station are flammable or explode, as is the case with most space fantasies. The problem is that their red glow blends in with everything else going on in the game, meaning that I was chucking explosives at point-blank range and taking myself out in the process on more than one occasion.

This overwhelming style also blends into the game's playable menus, set on a home ship surfing around the cosmos. Your character has to walk around the ship to find everything you'd expect on a regular menu, and there are no labels to be found throughout the experience. Even exiting the game is hidden behind a movie poster on a space-Netflix menu that only suggests at leaving your adventure behind for the time being. It's all very clever once you get a handle on it, but it throws you in without warning in much the same way that the gameplay does when you begin your first few shootouts. Maybe it only annoys me because of how little time I have for games outside of work obligations, but I prefer when there's both an artistically satisfying option and a way to get to what's supposed to be the good stuff with a single button press.

Big robots fall in I See Red
Big miniboss enemies are tough to take out no matter where they show up in a level.

Perhaps I See Red's biggest flaw is that it seems to be designed for touchscreens first and traditional controls second. Instead of the right stick aiming you might expect from a twin-stick shooter, I See Red locks on enemies, pickups, and more as you rotate your player character's aim. It's a subtle difference, but it is anything but precise in the heat of battle, especially as guns drop from a horde of enemies and your fire snaps to a handgun instead of your next target's abdomen. It makes single-shot weapons like the shotgun immediately less useful because one missed shot means you take significantly more damage than if you were just using your pistol or grappling a box toward an enemy's head.

Once I configured the controls, this unique choice worked out for my time spent with the game on Steam Deck and its touchscreen. Tapping on enemies and grappling things out of the way felt much more seamless in this environment, and I See Red might work a lot better on mobile devices at some point in the future. Still, my preferred method for any game is a controller, and I See Red is listed with Full Controller Support on its Steam storefront. With the way the aim locks on enemies and fiddles around menus, I can't see how that can be the case.

Chainsaw man comes to I See Red
It's like Chainsaw Man, only with more chainsaw. And a gun.

I See Red Review | Verdict

I See Red disappointed me because of how much potential I saw in its demo. The energy and attitude of the opening section made me think that the game could be something special, but every hour I spent with the final product further lowered my expectations. Despite some fun combat and an excellent grappling mechanic, it's tough to recommend a game that feels torn between platforms, at least in its PC release. Perhaps the game will release on a platform more suited to this gameplay, or perhaps someone will find a lot more to like about the game with more time on Deck. As for me, I only see the minutes frittering away as I try to find the fun in a frustratingly stylish but ultimately generic shooter.

TechRaptor reviewed I See Red on PC via Steam and on Steam Deck with a copy of the game provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Epic Games Store.

Review Summary

I See Red starts off strong and then immediately falters with shoddy controls, repetitive missions, and lackluster graphics. But at least it's got style. (Review Policy)


  • Black and white and red all over
  • Free reign with a powerful grappling hook


  • Touchscreen centric aiming
  • Repetitive levels that fail the definition of roguelike
  • Shooting settles into a generic rhythm over time


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More Info About This Game
Learn more about I See Red
Game Page I See Red
Whiteboard Games
Gameforge 4D
Release Date
October 24, 2022 (Calendar)