The Red Strings Club
Cyberpunk games have been popular for quite some time now. With themes of dystopian futures led by ill-advised technological advances, they all start to blend together after a while. There are a few notable exceptions, such as Deus Ex, Beneath a Steel Sky and even Technobabylon, but for the most part, the genre is a bit oversaturated with games that try to put their own spin on it, but inadvertently end up almost identical to others. The Red Strings Club, is a game that seeks to set itself apart from others in the genre, to reach the heights of the aforementioned games.
I know I harp on a bit about liking pixel graphics, but really, Destructeam really manages something superb with the artwork in The Red Strings Club. It’s absolutely phenomenal to look at, every scene is masterfully crafted with enough detail squeezed out of every pixel to make a scene stand out, without cluttering the screen. The characters as well are all brilliantly designed – simple, but detailed enough to give them all their own unique style. To add to this, they’ve got a incredibly good soundtrack that enhances every aspect of the game. Every action, every character, every scene, has a song with it that really sets the scene so well. These two are the very basic ingredients that can really enhance a video game, and if you add a third, then you’ve got a winner – and The Red Strings Club has that third, key ingredient. A great story. It’s absorbing and intriguing. A dystopian future where bionic implants are commonplace among all people, with companies being able to push out ‘updates’ as and when they please due to people not reading the terms and conditions when they sign up – and a small, revolutionary squad determined to take down the big boys by any means. It all comes together to form a quite spectacular story, that gripped me from the get-go.
In the game, you play as three different characters that are adept at different things. Donovan is an incredible mixologist, Akara can make bionic implants and Brandeis is a master of disguise. Each character utilises these talents to aid the rebellion forces and try to shut down the mind control implant being forced onto the populace. Donovan’s mini game is by far the best – constructing an alcoholic beverage to manipulate his patron into spilling their guts about a certain topic. You’re often given a couple of different moods to aim for, and you need to be careful to pair the correct drink with the correct question in order to maximise the information gain. Because you often only get one chance to get people to talk about a certain subject, revisiting the conversations in subsequent playthroughs often gives some rather different results, which has knock on effects for the story. When playing as Akara, you are in a medical facility, charged with creating implants for people and then shoving it into their torso. While creating the implant is fun, the effects of it are much more so. Pushing a cosplayer to the heights of Comic-con, only to then force him to give up his beliefs is quite funny. You do get the opportunity to alter gameplay further down the line though, and putting the right – or wrong – implant into certain people can have some interesting effects. I’ve left Brandeis’ ability and mini game to the end, and for good reason. It’s easily the least interesting. You sit in the CFO’s chair and try to call a bunch of people to glean as much information as possible about how to hack the system. You can change your voice to sound like people from around the office, and that’s kind of cool, but overall, it’s a fairly disappointing experience, especially as you have to type in phone numbers constantly.
The story in The Red Strings Club, as I’ve already said, is a very strong aspect. But it is also one area where Deconstructeam could really improve on as well. Despite the story being so absorbing and interesting, it’s very short. You can probably finish the story in around two or three hours, and getting all of the achievements will take you another couple of hours. It’s incredibly short because there’s only an ‘A’ plot. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially with a game like this that has a branching storyline, but the main plot has to be a long one. It felt like I was just scratching the surface of the world when the credits rolled around, and I left feeling quite disappointed. There were so many different themes that were touched upon, but never fully explained. The relationship between Donovan and Brrandeis, who certain characters are and the nature of the Red Strings Club are all potentially very interesting topics, but they remain unknown to the player. Keeping cards close to the chest is good for keeping the mystery, but never explaining anything is just lazy writing.
The Final Word
The Red Strings Club is disappointingly short, but the only reason I felt let down by it was because I was enjoying it so much when I was playing it. The characters were quirky and fun, the world seemed interesting and intriguing, and everything else in it was so well presented. It has a fantastic soundtrack and some gorgeous artwork, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying every aspect of it. I’m hoping that the developers enjoyed making it as much as I enjoyed playing it, because that could signal a potential sequel.