Paint the Town Red Review

Paint the Town Red is not much at first glance. The main menu had a slab of solid music, but the menus were uninspiring and a little confusing – I wasn’t sure whether to start with ‘Scenarios’, ‘Beneath’ or ‘Arena’ as none of them were clearly denoted as ‘main game’.  The background graphics seemed basic, and the characters are square headed stick figures that don’t seem like they have a lot of articulation.

Well, I was incredibly wrong about first impressions.

Paint the Town Red is a first-person brawler, with a roguelite side option. The style is voxel based leading to a blocky style with a large amount of versatility. The player gets access to punches, a special move, power moves that require building up meter, and any items that are scattered around to complete their tasks.    

Scenarios is spread across multiple settings – Biker Bar, Discotheque, Pirate cove – and requires the player to survive an improv single player battle royale. In each of these the player will enter the area, wander around it, then instigate a fight which results in chaos erupting among everyone in the environment.

The NPC’s are generally indiscriminate and start picking up items and beating anyone and everyone over the head with it. Each scenario quickly degenerates into complete carnage, with the player grabbing anything they can find and throwing/swinging/stabbing it at anyone that comes near them. This mode is utterly delightful, there are multiple variants on each (it can be turned it into Super Hot where people only move at full speed when the player does) and various parameters can be changed to make it harder or easier.

Scenarios was probably my favourite mode. The way the game allowed me to improvise with the weapons (paying in mind that nothing lasted more than a few hits before breaking) and using judicious use of the kick and punches when nothing came to hand made me feel like I was living by the seat of my pants. A failed run meant that I would strategize as to where I needed to go to pick up better gear, or for better ways to bottle neck enemies and give myself an advantage. When everything kicks off and works, I felt like I was Colin Firth in the middle of the church melee in Kingsman: The Secret Service, or Iko Uwais in any of the harrowing prison fight scenes during The Raid II.

These fights are greatly improved by the game’s style, the voxel-based models allow for localised damage, faces can be smashed, arms/hands chopped, throats stabbed etc. The cartoon approach helped turn it into Itchy & Scratchy gruesome instead of Grand Guignol macabre. 

Beneath is the roguelite portion of the game that is probably the largest section of the game. The player is put in the position of ‘ensign’, a voiceless person tasked with exploring a series of caverns below a mysterious facility. After the first run they can pick from different classes that have different special moves and different power moves. It has all the staples of a roguelite, with progress during the run being lost on death, and a shop that sells meta progress that makes subsequent play throughs more manageable. It is solid but does not sell the melee combat as most encounters degenerate into running away and taking lucky shots.  The meta progression is also very slow with it taking a while before I could consistently get to the third level.

Arena seems geared for those that have mastered the combat and want an extra challenge. It is set in a colosseum and split up into a series of different challenges that must be beaten in one go. For me this made some of the limitations of the game more apparent as some levels have no weapons, nor enough enemies to use the power moves. Without these I noticed that the punch range was hard to figure out, and there were times when my kicks would miss enemies even though the model’s leg went through them. This seems to be because both only connect to whatever is directly in the centre, but my brain could never get over the disconnect provided by the visuals.

Paint the Town Red still has a lot of content, but I would love to see multiplayer console support. Otherwise, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good first-person melee game.

Conclusion

Bold and chaotic, Paint the Town Red is an excellent first-person brawler with a ton of content for both beginners and pros.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Excellent Scenario-based pub fights
  • Deep and challenging roguelite option
  • Deranged voxel violence
Bad
  • Arena exposes some of the minor problems
  • Console would really welcome a multiplayer mode
7.9
Good
Gameplay - 9
Graphics - 8
Audio - 7
Longevity - 7.5
Written by
AJ Small is a games industry veteran, starting in QA back in 2004. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made. He can be found on twitter (@badgercommander), where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.

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