There is a door. They come through that door: vile, twisted abominations, their demented forms the stuff that monsters have nightmares about. Hordes of the disfigured beasts pour through in endless waves. And that's all perfectly fine, for as hideous as these things are, they can't hurt me. They are more than welcome to share this cold, desolate place with me, free to roam beneath the ever-present pale moon. That's not the problem.
No, it's the second door, and these nightmares' unceasing attempts to get through it that I have a problem with. That just won't do.
Eternal Red is, by its own admission, a cross between a platform arena style shooter and a real-time strategic defense game. No story, no dialogue, just you and the seemingly non-stop litany of enemies appearing from one door that try to make it to the second.
To prevent this, as the game's cross-genre would imply, you must utilize a combination of personal weapons and floor traps to cut your foes down before too many of them make it to the second door. With each slain creature and each successfully survived wave you earn more money, allowing you to build traps, buy weapons, or upgrade existing equipment. You'll be doing quite a bit of all of it, too, as it doesn't take long for your traps and weapons to grow into obsolescence.
Every ten waves you will come up against a boss. These bosses are larger and slower than the typical enemy, but they come with a ton of hit points and reduce your door's counter by a significant amount if they manage to make it through.
Analysis: Eternal Red sucks you in. To give you an idea on just how engrossing of an experience this game can be, when I first sat down to play it, my intent was to do so only for five minutes to get a feel for what the game was trying to do and how well it did it. An hour later I had to force myself away from the game so I could make it to work on time, wait for my coworker to leave, and start playing all over again.
While I'm not the world's biggest fan of either strategic defense games or platform shooters, Eternal Red just seems to work so well that it quickly becomes a difficult game to put down. Instantly it grabs you with its simple yet dark and foreboding artistry: everything save the moon in the backdrop is done in black shapes outlined with red, and these wonderfully morose visuals are backed up with a macabre kind of techno soundtrack that manages to combine the oppressive mood of the setting with the intensity of the action.
And that action is quite awesome. The game starts off suitably slow, giving you time to acclimate yourself to the decently ergonomic interface and smooth controls. Soon enough, things can ramp up to a frenzied pace as you dash back and forth to make sure your floor traps are adequate to take out the ground troops while dispatching flying enemies with bullets leaping from the muzzle of your gun.
As with many hybridized games, perhaps the greatest risk Eternal Red runs is falling short in the eyes of fans of the parent genres from which it was inspired. Strategic defense fans will likely be disappointed with the rather poor selection of available traps and upgrades, while fans of platform shooters may think that there aren't enough guns available, or the fact that the main character doesn't take damage may feel a little too much like cheating. The game is also woefully lacking in a reward system, even though the sheer variety of bad guys will keep you interested for some time. And while the lack of story allows you to focus on the gameplay, I don't think a sequel can be made without having at least a cursory explanation as to what's going on.
Eternal Red may lack the depth of either of its parent genres, it manages to find a pretty solid balance between the two, making it a brilliant little diversion to pass the time with.