Developed by Stranga Games, Ashina: The Red Witch is a casual 2D pixel puzzle game which hit Steam on 4th June 2022. With heavy elements of exploration, story-telling and adventure, Ashina offers a casual yet joyful single-player experience for all audiences. Available for PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Vita, the base game is priced at £7.19 with an optional stories bundle for just £5.00 more.
Ashina: The Red Witch’s ESRB rating is currently pending.
About | Stranga Games
Stranga is a solo indie developer based in New South Wales, and is responsible for titles such as Red Bow, Scared to Play and My Big Sister. All of these games are of similar style, and review very well. Being my first time hearing of Stranga, I’m excited to play Ashina: The Red Witch.
“Join Ash on the journey of an afterlife-time! Travel through a mysterious spirit world filled with strange creatures, interesting characters, and memorable moments! Ash must find her way back home and save her sister from the powers that be.”
Ashina: The Red Witch is primarily a story-driven exploration game. Playing as Ash, adventure through the dark and supernatural spirit world in search of your sister, Tena. A word of warning though… this land was not made for the living.
Our story is delivered through chapters, each chapter having it’s own objectives and goals. Throughout these chapters, you must find key items and talk to specific characters in order to progress your story. Exploration is key, and straying from the main path will uncover numerous side stories and locations, setting you on new adventures. The game is heavy on dialogue and character development, which is the main thing you’ll need to know going in.
There isn’t a huge amount to talk about here. The main form of gameplay is simply exploring and interacting with characters through dialogue. Exploring the side areas will sometimes lead to items that can be used for later interactions, unlocking more side areas so the cycle can continue.
Unfortunately, we’re kind of thrown into the first chapter without really getting much of an introduction to the controls. From what I could suss out, the game works on a series of triggers. Trying to perform certain actions or performing them in the wrong sequence will just end in failure. Eventually, you’ll find yourself running around interacting with everything trying to trigger the next step. This isn’t a huge issue, though it was a little tricky to wrap my head around at the start.
One of my favourite things about Ashina: The Red Witch is how the game educates us on Asian culture as we explore the levels. Within the first 15 minutes, we’ve learned about food, clothing and different words for spirit or ghost – we learn many new things throughout the game, which I’ll leave for you to discover for yourself. Maybe let me know in the comments if you learned something new?
Playing on my usual rig, running a Ryzen 7, RTX 3070 and 32GB RAM my hardware far exceeds the minimum requirements. Ashina only requires 500MB Ram, “any” GPU and “any” processor. Not really surprising though, this being such a small game.
Graphically, Ashina: The Red Witch is beautifully presented through a simplistic yet elegant 2D pixel art style. Characters are basic, yet unique. Viewing from a top-down perspective, Stranga has somehow managed to create a feeling of depth. Ashina is visually comparable to games like Terraria, Stardew Valley and Core Keeper. Although I have to admit, I don’t play many 2D pixel games, so I have a limited catalogue for comparison.
I absolutely love the use of lighting throughout, particularly the lanterns and neon signs. There’s just something really warm and inviting about the lighting, which really adds to the ambience and helps immerse you in the game world. Cleverly, lighting is even attached to 2D sprites and used in character animation.
Audio compliments the graphics in such a way as to really add to the atmospheric feel of the game. Flickering lanterns and smoldering fires are somehow incredibly relaxing, really putting you in the mood to explore the spirit world. My only *complaint* is the tone used during dialogue.. it’s very repetitive and I can see it getting a little frustrating in the longer interactions.
I didn’t notice any graphical, audio or gameplay bugs throughout my playthrough. Other than a few spelling mistakes, Stranga can be proud that they’ve produced a pretty well-polished game. Too often do indie developers churn out broken titles and call them “early access”, but this is not the case for Ashina.
Finally, it’s worth noting here that the game is available in a host of languages. These include; English, German, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish. Due to the games text-based design, it shouldn’t make a difference to the experience regardless of which language you play with.
Ashina: The Red Witch isn’t a huge game, it’s fairly small on gameplay but big on story. Chapters are full of dialogue, and if you enjoy character development and story-rich games then this is definitely for you. The content we get is incredibly well designed and developed, clearly a lot of love has been poured into this one.
For me personally, Ashina is a game in which you complete one or two chapters at a time. There just isn’t quite enough to do to keep me interested for more than 30/45 minutes at a time.
At the time of this write-up, Ashina has wracked up around 30 Steam reviews with an overall score of “positive”, and it’s easy to see why. A little bit light on gameplay and heavy on story, though that’s by design, what’s here is incredibly polished. The art style perfectly compliments the story and lightning while the animation is used to perfection. The soundtracks are just brilliant.
Combining all of that with the fact that we learn as we play, without even realising… and you have an awesome little indie game.
I award Ashina: The Red Witch a Thumb Culture Gold Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.