A stealth game where you must get caught – Red Handed [Indie Highlight]

Want to try a stealth game where getting caught is the goal? Red Handed twists the genre on its head. Discover its clever design and lessons for game devs!

Indie game highlight for Red Handed.

Developer: Bad Piggy
URL: Red Handed by Bad Piggy (itch.io)
Engine: Unity
Platform(s): Web, Windows
Release Date: March 1, 2021
Player(s): 1
Genre: Action Puzzle

“A stealth game where you have to get caught”

Indie games thrive on unique concepts, and Red Handed certainly delivers. Red Handed was developed by Bad Piggy in under 3 days for the Wowie 3.0 Game Jam that was held on Feb 26, 2021. The theme of the jam was “Failure is progress”. Additionally, the game was also submitted to the 7dfps 2020 jam (7 day first person shooter).

Red Handed's unconventional take on stealth mechanics makes it a fascinating experience for both players and those with an interest in game design. It is definitely worth a playthrough if you have some time!

animated gif showing unique gameplay of red handed
Source: Bad Piggy

What Makes It Stand Out

The interpretation of the theme is unique. A stealth game where the player has to be caught in order to proceed sounds like an oxymoron, which it is, but it works so well. In a genre built on avoiding detection, Red Handed forces you to actively seek it out. This twist transforms the game into a strategic puzzle.

Unlike some other games, there are several unique ways to complete a level. The game doesn’t force the players to beat the game in a certain way, it grants the player freedom in selecting their own strategy.

I saw a comment by on the itch page that suggested a way to play the game without firing any bullets if you’re up for a challenge! And while that is not the way the game developer intended their game to be played, this is a direct example of how freedom in player choice allows for the game to exist beyond a creative's initial intent.

Related to the above point, the bullet restrictions imposed on each level for the player to get creative with their approach to the game.  Initially, eliminating guards seems like the obvious answer to promote freedom, but limitations forces players to adopt smarter, more creative tactics.

For example, after learning how to grab enemies, the game limits the amount of bullets for the remaining levels in order for the player to get creative in their strategy rather than just relying on the easy way out (using your weapon).

Future Improvements

  • More environment interactions – It would be cool if the player was able to pick up items from the level and use them as weapons (hitman style). This could open up the door to all different types of gameplay styles and would further player creativity.
  • Enemy variety – If the dev was to continue working on the game, I think a nice added feature would be more variety of enemy types. The player has the invisibility skill, but what if there was an enemy type that could still see the player even if they were invisible?
  • Loadout consistency – I found it confusing that some levels started you off as invisible while other did not. Since there is no real penalty for restarting a level I found this more of a slight annoyance rather than a dealbreaker. Under the time restrictions of the game jam I understand that this is 100% a nitpick and is not a fault of the game!
screenshot from red handed showing the stealth mechanics
Source: Bad Piggy

Key Takeaways for Game Devs

Think outside the box when it comes to game jam themes and game design overall. With the time restrictions imposed during game jams developers have to be creative with their core gameplay loops in order to standout – this just shows the power of constraints when it comes to game design. Red Handed is a prime example of this, while the graphics and sound design are somewhat simple, its the game design that really carries this game.

You don’t need advanced tech to have a fun game. I’ve read so many stories of gamedevs trying to get their start in game dev by chasing the latest and greatest tech in UE5.

While UE5 can get your game looking gorgeous out of the box, it requires you to keep up that level of polish throughout your game dev journey in order for the finished project to feel well designed. Sure some devs might be able to keep that up throughout the entire dev cycle, but most people won’t be able to sustain that workload.

The main takeaway here is the importance of having a cohesive art design (in this case, 2d pixel art sprites), that is manageable for you, and to have a fun gameplay loop.

How do you know if you gameplay loop is fun? Playtesting!

Test your game with people you know (friends, family, coworkers, dogs, etc.) to gain constructive criticism on how your game plays and feels. As a developer playing your own game, you tend to subconsciously gloss over the rough edges of the product.

Have you tried Red Handed? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments! If you crave more quirky and innovative indie titles, subscribe to my newsletter. I'm dedicated to uncovering these gems and sharing valuable game development lessons.