Indie Review Visual Novel

Red-Handed Robin – Review | Don’t Get Caught!

Debuted as an entry for NaNoRenO 2020+, Red-Handed Robin is an otome visual novel by indie developer Hollowmend that tells the story of Robin, an experienced thief who is on her way to escape to another city after having successfully executed her latest heist. With her luggage of stolen goods and Jay, her loyal bodyguard, in tow, Robin confidently boards the train of freedom heading out of the country. Everything is well until she bumps into Wren, a detective aboard the same train.

Containing three parts and with the game receiving its final content installment shortly before this review was written, Robin’s escape tale is now complete after months of work. In this spoiler-free review, let’s take a look at this cat-and-mouse adventure that features two love interests: Jay and Wren.

A train ride like no other

Though Red-Handed Robin is relatively short and all of its ten endings can be obtained within hours, its story is nothing short of an emotional roller coaster. Led along by the smooth storytelling, I have found myself going through fluttery feels, anxious anticipation, dreadful despair, and euphoric enlightenment. On top of well-written scenes, there are aptly paired pieces of background music that heighten the moods of various moments. I especially find the change of music right after solving the puzzle in Part 3 very memorable; that burst of uplifting emotion once everything fell into place is wonderfully orchestrated.

Another thing that impressed me is how the story starts off simple but the plot soon thickens with unexpected twists and turns. Plot twists are timed nicely without overloading the story with too much information at any one point. In addition, there are notable unanswered clues in Red-Handed Robin that make me convinced they are collectively hinting towards a potential sequel. Those clues are cleverly revealed. They tease my curiosity enough for me to want some answers, yet they do not quite make the final endings feel like they lacked proper closures.

Red-handed Robin - Wren

Robin’s tale is a delightful, refreshing read not only because of the plot’s complexity but also because of the nonlinear narrative skillfully used to regulate the pacing of the story. In particular, I find the coverage of two concurrent happenings, as told from different characters’ points of view, a nice way to present the event more holistically. Although the story is broken into chunks and flashbacks are inserted at multiple points, the flow of the story is still smooth and logical. Subtle but effective methods are used in the writing to help players keep track of scene changes and progression, such as repeating the last few lines of a previously left scene when the same scene is continued at a later point.

As typical for short visual novels, there are plenty of common story sections with comparatively little route-specific content in Red-Handed Robin. While there are enough significant differences in each character route to make them distinct from one another, they are not entirely different stories per se. The two character routes are more akin to two sides of the same coin, which works in favor of this game because a more complete picture of what happened is eventually painted. Nevertheless, the ample amount of shared plot did take away much of the anticipation and surprise during my playthrough of the second route.

Something of note is that character routes are assigned at the start of Part 2, which means the few choices in the first portion are decisive. Players who dislike draggy introductions would likely find this arrangement to their preference.

Liar, liar, but don’t let your pants catch on fire.

One factor that makes Red-Handed Robin pretty fun to play is its brilliant combination of the story setting and choice system to create mini-games that seamlessly blend in with the narrative. They are mini-games that are part of the story itself, unlike stat-raising or battle systems that tend to stand out as separate entities from the story. Four mini-games are hidden within the narrative and each one has something to do with lies, a highly relevant theme to our thieving protagonist who naturally uses lies as a cover-up.

Red-Handed Robin - Jay

It is quite amazing to see different mini-games designed around a single theme. There is the most straightforward mini-game where Robin has to keep her lies from getting exposed, and another that turns the tables and she gets to probe someone else’s lies. All of them are simple, save for the third mini-game in the story that actually had me stumped during my first try. Still, that sweet moment of understanding when the hints clicked is quite unforgettable.

The way these mini-games are implemented has two drawbacks: first, once you know the answer, then you know the answer; second, it is possible to arrive at the correct answers by simply brute forcing through all available dialogue options. The first drawback affects replayability but with Red-Handed Robin featuring only two character routes, the boredom of going through the same quick mini-games one already knows the answers to during their first playthrough does not in fact last long. The second drawback can affect players’ immersion in the story not just due to the unnatural fiddling with the choices, but also the possibility of temporarily diverting players’ attention away from the storyline as they focus on getting the solution in that short while.

The tangled tale of the troubled trio.

Nestled snugly within the main escape plot are Robin’s, Jay’s, and Wren’s backstories and romance plots. Through the backstories, players gain insights into the characters’ personalities as well as their relationships. For Red-Handed Robin, these backstories are integral to its romance plot. However, I feel that Wren’s backstory evoked stronger emotions than Jay’s did, probably because I am easily sympathetic to what Wren had experienced. On the other hand, when it comes to Robin’s interactions with either love interest outside of the backstories, I find those with Jay more interesting.

On the whole, though, Wren’s route feels much more complete than Jay’s. Whether or not it is done on purpose, there are points in Jay’s backstories that are left unelaborated — so much so that I was left with the impression that the developer had disproportionately given more attention to Wren’s route.

Nonetheless, all three main characters are complex individuals who have their own emotional baggage to let go of. Watching the trio learning more about one another, clearing their misunderstandings, and generally growing over the course of the story has been rather satisfying.

Lovely sights all around.

Besides the story, the art is another aspect worth savoring in Red-Handed Robin. The character sprites are not animated but they still hold their own with nice simple character designs and decent variations in the main characters’ poses, facial expressions, and clothing. And much to my pleasant surprise, minor characters are given their own portrait sprites, a lovely touch that has helped enliven various interactions involving those side characters. As for background art, some of them may look flat but the perspective and details are generally great.

There is not much user interface customization done, though I find the inclusion of accessibility options to the preferences menu a thoughtful addition. Other than the choice between the default and Open Dyslexic fonts, there is also an option for regular or large font sizes. However, the changes seem to apply only to dialogue texts and not the choice texts.


Featuring a bold protagonist, an adorable bodyguard, a sweetheart detective, and — very regretfully — a handsome non-romanceable bachelor, Red-Handed Robin provides quite an unforgettable adventure with surprising turns. It may be a short game but all things considered, it is quite the gem.



Platforms: PC
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If you would like to see more Otome Visual Novels, you may be interested in our review of Dark Nights or Cupid ParasiteOr how about checking out some of the other top visual novels for this year on our Top Visual Novels of 2021 list.

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