The Red Strings Club Review
Deconstructeam’s previous game, Gods will be Watching, was a fascinating and unique take on the point-and-click adventure genre. Featuring a very cool pixel art style, the game was instantly intriguing, but the brick wall of a difficulty curve was pretty tough for a lot of players to get through. Some other criticisms were levied at the game, which was still worth checking out, but far from what it could have been. With the similar, but completely standalone follow up The Red Strings Club, it appears that Deconstructeam was paying attention to the critique, as they’ve delivered a truly fantastic game that is both engaging and accessible, while still holding true to the strictures of the genre.
The Red Strings Club takes place in a Blade Runner-esque world, filled with neon lights, giant skyscrapers, and seemingly evil corporations bent on controlling the masses. The way they plan to do the latter here is through Social Psyche Welfare, a mysterious program that promises to remove all negative feelings from the people. It’s up to our heroes to stop them. They’ll do this through their hacking skills, both electronic and social, with the main focus on providing characters with drinks to get them in the right mood.
Yes, you play as a bartender. The host of the famous Red Strings Club, whose gift seems to be that he can craft a drink that satisfies the customer perfectly. To do this you will mix different drinks that move a circle across the screen, trying to align it with the mood you want the character in. Serve it up and ask your questions, but don’t mess it up because this game doesn’t let you just rewind and ask again…unless you feel like drugging them.
The Red Strings Club goes further than most modern point-and-click titles and instead works its way into your head
Reading this all might sound a bit silly, but The Red Strings Club handles it with pitch perfect tone. The cyberpunk, scifi-noire styling is great, and it serves up a story that was engaging from start to finish. As you uncover the plot of Supercontinent Ltd, you begin to understand the true magnitude of the situation, and your characters’ places in it. When the game really starts to click is when it forces players to make tough decisions, which it will do quite often, and each has a noticeable effect on how the rest of the game plays out.
And when I say this game forces you to make tough decisions, I don’t just mean “who do you kill” sort of scenarios. No, The Red Strings Club goes further than most modern point-and-click titles and instead works its way into your head, making you think about your own opinions on important topics. Does buying something give you ultimate control of it, or do the makers have some sort of power as well? Is it right to take away someone’s pain without their permission, if that pain is truly harmful? These are just some of the important and meaningful topics that come up frequently within The Red Strings Club.
What it does even better is actually put you into situations to test what you say. It’s easy to think and say that someone shouldn’t be controlled, but when you actually have that control over someone, do you wield it? The game doesn’t tell you the answers, it presents the scenario and lets you decide, often without even pointing out what just happened.
The Red Strings Club is a game that has stuck with me long after finishing it, though with its branching storyline and focus on replayability, many players will never truly finish the game. This replayability only goes so far though, as many of the events and tasks remain the same, so I see a lot of players quitting once they hit the credits. While this will only take a few hours at most, the game still feels worthwhile thanks to its heady themes and fantastic story and worldbuilding.
The world of The Red Strings Club is one I would like to revisit. It’s as close to the Blade Runner game I asked for back in 2017 as we’re probably going to get (you bastards didn’t go see Blade Runner 2049 and you should be ashamed). Red Strings Club gives you a cyberpunk world, but your view of it is rather limited, allowing the player to fill in the gaps for themselves. You stay within the confines of the bar, as your character has certain physical limitations, only branching out when you take the place of other characters. These brief glimpses at the larger world are fascinating, and always something to look forward to, often featuring the more robust and unique gameplay elements as well.
Sometimes this doesn’t work quite as well though. Mixing drinks and talking to customers makes sense, once you get past the somewhat cumbersome method of pouring the actual liquid. A couple of the puzzles outside of the bar were more frustrating though, featuring some confusing instructions and repetitive actions. These are very rare however, but when a game is this short, they can stand out more.
Yes, The Red Strings Club focuses on replayability, but that does come at the cost of longevity and a feeling of real satisfaction at the end. Don’t get me wrong, the game tells a great story and its ending is solid, creating a feeling of enjoyment and wonder that will likely propel most players back into the game for a fresh start. However, there are a few things that don’t get fully explored here, and the last chapter kind of rushes at you rather than coming naturally.
But these issues are minor when looked at as a part of the whole. The Red Strings Club is an evocative, gorgeous, and endlessly fascinating game. It’s the sort of game that you will be thinking about long after you finish it and put it down. I completed the game for the first time a few days ago, and despite playing other games since then, it’s the one that has stuck with me the most. It’s visuals and gameplay craft something that is truly memorable and unique within the gaming sphere these days, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
The Red Strings Club is a true cyberpunk classic. Pixel-art visuals and a cyberpunk world make way for fascinating gameplay and a truly compelling, well written story. The game may be short, but its impact will last for a good long while, and you can always jump right back in to see how your choices shape the narrative. The game will force you to make tough decisions while questioning your own thoughts about important, current day topics. This is an indie title you won’t want to miss.