Developer, Deconstructeam made waves when their previous title, Gods Will Be Watching came out. Despite its flaws, and how unmerciful it could be at times, it was an interesting debut. And now we have their second offering, The Red Strings Club.
The Red Strings Club came out about a week ago. Devolver Digital returns as publisher for this new offering. One sure thing about Devolver, their games are never boring. As such, The Red Strings Club has some of the coolest mechanics I’ve found in an adventure game alongside a story that will give you plenty to ponder.
Welcome to the Red Strings Club
The Red Strings Club is set in the distant future in a cool cyberpunk setting. Players are introduced to three different characters. First, Donovan, the bartender and owner of the Red Strings Club. Next, Brandeis, a hacker and Donovan’s boyfriend. Finally an android who is capable of empathy, Akara-184. The characters must work together to try and stop a conspiracy.
Supercontinent Ltd. (because it’s not cyberpunk without a megacorp) has plans to release what they call the Social Psyche Welfare. This would erase all negative emotions. While it might sound like a nice idea, Donovan and Brandeis feel like it’s just a PR spin on brainwashing. After meeting Akara they decide to work together to put a stop to it.
Even though there are three different characters, the brunt of the game is spent with Donovan. Akara and Brandeis are only available in certain moments, with the climax focusing on Brandeis himself.
Each character has a specific mechanic to utilize. Brandeis is a hacker so his segments involve social engineering and a ventriloquist-like implant that allows him to speak as other people. Akara’s section involves making implants that can alter people’s emotions. The coolest thing about these implants is that they are made with pottery. Players use a lathe and similar tools to shape the implants as if they were clay.
Get me something strong
Donovan’s sections are the most interesting ones. Not just because they represent the bigger part of the game, but because of what happens during them. Apart from being a bartender, Donovan is an information broker. His skill is making drinks that influence those who drink them by appealing to their buried emotions. This proves vital in coercing them to answer questions. Their mood determines whether they reveal what they really know.
After each client leaves, regardless of whether we got all the information we needed, Akara will ask us questions about them, as part of a game. The meaty questions are always the final ones. She’ll ask Donovan to give an opinion on things like whether marketing is inherently evil, or if corporations have the right to change their products after we buy them.
If you get 7 out of 10 questions right, Akara will give you a pill you can use to erase people’s memories of their time at the bar. This can be useful if you screw up your interrogations, but using them is entirely optional.
Another interesting mechanic is the appearance of a red string at the top left of the screen. Whenever you finish a conversation another thread is woven into the node (as you see in the image above). These nodes represent all different ways the story can go. While we know the ultimate outcome (the game starts at the end) this mechanic puts the focus on the journey to get there.
It’s an interesting idea, even though the outcome is always the same, how you get to it can play out differently. This changes the way you play as well. If you’re missing some information at the final puzzle then you’ll have to find an alternate way to get there. This gives the game a measure of replayability. If for no other reason then to find out “if I serve this character a drink that will make her horny, what will happen?”
One glass of emotion coming up!
The Red Strings Club not only boasts an interesting story, but the game looks pretty as well. The stunning pixel art style really suits the cyberpunk setting. While this style was already good in Gods Will Be Watching, it looks even better in the new game.
No two characters look alike, and all the characters feel well defined and fleshed out. The conversations with them are entertaining and they help broaden the world. Particularly in the case of Donovan and Brandeis. The game doesn’t really delve too much into their past but it hints at their common backstory on several occasions.
Strangely, in spite of all the time we spend with Donovan, he remains somewhat of a mystery. His past is hinted at several times with the implication that there might be something supernatural about him. Whether this is true or not is part of the mystery that makes Donovan so interesting.
The game’s music is amazing as well, alternating moody piano pieces and synths. Again, you can’t have cyberpunk without some serious synths. Speaking of synths, the game even features a cameo by one of the best synthwave artists out there, GosT. Sadly, you won’t find any of his work on the soundtrack for the final game.
- Absorbing storyline
- Compelling mechanics and characters
- Amazing art style and music
- The start of the game drags on for a bit.
- We don’t spend enough time playing as Brandeis or Akara.
- The game leaves a lot in the air with players wanting more.
The Red Strings Club is worth your time. It has a good balance between mechanics and story. The story gives you plenty to think about so you’ll definitely be back for another drink, even if it’s just to explore additional outcomes.