The Red Strings Club (Switch eShop) Review
Time to join the cyber-revolution and sabotage an ominous Mega corporation before they rule our minds. Time to join The Red Strings Club. With some future-pottery, bartending and a bit of cyber hacking, you’ll get to the bottom of a conspiracy that threatens everyone’s free will.
In this Cyberpunk world, body modification and cybernetic implants are commonplace. People can augment themselves to be more charismatic, persuasive, or block out negative influences. Mega-Corporations rule the world and a revolutionary group have found that one in particular, Supercontinent Ltd intend to unleash a program on the entire city. It’s called Social Psyche Welfare, and it will allow human emotions to be controlled to a degree through the implants. Depression and anxiety could be dulled or even halted, and more positive or ‘productive’ feelings pushed, or as it’s put in the game ‘brainwashing’ and mind control. It’s to be implemented in secret and without consent, and due to an extra feature it will even carry over to people without any implants.
The game starts with Brandeis falling from a skyscraper on a rainy night. Death is inevitable, but how did it come to this? Cut to a few days earlier as the race to stop the SPW program from going online begins. Donovan is the bartender of The Red Strings Club as well as an information broker, and his partner Brandeis, a cyberhacker, come across the information through Akara, a super-empathic sentient android. The story is split into three different parts, starting with Akana. Their role is to make cybernetic implants to meet clients wants and needs. You’ll be given a file stating what they want and it’s up to you to best choose what implant would
The bartender is well known for being able to read patrons emotions and mixing drinks that can heighten them to obtain information otherwise more difficult to get. With each patron you have to read their mood to find which emotion to tap into, then it’s time to pour some drinks. The bartending minigame is fairly straightforward as you make the drink. The real challenge is asking the right questions and choosing the right emotion to tap into as you’re given multiple choices questions to ask. The wrong mood and the wrong question can end up shutting down important conversations. Brandeis’ time to shine is when it’s time to cyberhack and use your cybernetic implants to do some espionage. This mostly involves utilising different identities to get information out of others over the phone to stop SPW. The actions from the previous parts help inform what you have to work with hacking into Supercontinent, bringing you one step closer to the inevitable conclusion.
Visually, The Red Strings Club captures the look and feel of older 90s pixel art games reminiscent of Lucasarts, Sierra or even games like Underneath a Steel Sky. While there are only a few environments, developer Deconstructeam has given plenty of style to the Red Strings Club itself with an older looking bar that wouldn’t look out of place in a noir game. Combined with futuristic skylines and a healthy dose of atmospheric synth music, it all just works to really set the mood. I would happily play another adventure game set within this world.
The Red Strings contains less than a handful of locations, mostly the club itself. Over the 3-4 hours for the first play through I never felt like it wasn’t enough. Between the three main locations, they all manage to move on just before they go on too long. With the fairly short play time it does invite multiple playthroughs to explore the other options. While you can’t stop Brandeis from his fate, there are several different ways to get there.
The Red Strings Club is filled with ambiguity. In no way is that a bad thing, it will challenge your way of thinking, often. Most interactions are fraught with danger. Any decision you make could matter and can have unseen consequences that will not only impact you, but put others at risk too. Something The Red Strings does well is make you care about these characters in such a short time, and each play through you’re only getting a glimpse at different aspects. To be successful in the bartending portion you have to pay attention to what’s being said, and how it’s being said. When you’ve tuned into a targeted emotion then it’s playing into it, which in turn catches different moments with the patrons. Their connections to Donovan also reveal more about the mysterious bartender and Brandeis. At the end of the patrons visit, Akara will give you a little quiz to see how you paid attention while also prompting further fleshing out of Donovan’s character
Personally, as I played through the first time, I found myself trying to keep track of things I could do differently next time, and I really did want to see the different ways it can play out. The game also keeps track of your decisions so you can look back at what ones matter and can take different paths.
One of the conversations in the game asks for your thoughts on what you’d do with the power to change human behaviour. Up until this point the game rarely pulled its punches, but this conversation was the point it was quick to. Knowing what you want to pick and knowing what you should pick aren’t the same thing, and even though it’s just picking an option in a game it sticks with you after you’ve turned it off.
Some aspects of the game will hit closer to home than others. Some will even be confronting or impact you personally. For myself I have dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. When the game pokes and prods you to decide if people should be allowed to be depressed or if there was an option to soften it or remove it, it is a genuinely difficult scenario to give an answer for and can really hit home. It can quickly turn into a deep rabbit hole as the game discusses free will, human emotions, transhumanism and ethical dilemmas.
What struck me was how well crafted all the threads are. Whether you felt you did well, just scraped by or blew it in a conversation, the story goes on. As it goes your decisions ripple out and the payoff might not show up for some time.
While I really liked the story, the characters and world that it all inhabits, the bartending and Lathe controls could’ve been a bit better. The control stick is too sensitive and the D-pad buttons too slow. You wind up having to alternate so you don’t spill your drinks everywhere. Using a cursor to interact isn’t the most ideal way to interact with the game, but if you’re playing in handheld the touch screen also works. It is more than suitable as an alternative. That’s not to say the controls impact upon progressing in the game, they don’t, they could just be better.
The Red Strings Club fits into a niche, a cyberpunk narrative with a touch of noir bundled with in a adventure game. If any of these genres grabs your interest then you should pull up a seat, make a drink and soak into the electronic synth tunes as The Red Strings Club gives you something to really think about.
- A story to remember and think on
- Visuals and music sets a perfect tone
- Good enough for a multiple playthroughs
- Minigame controls are average