I’ve been playing a lot of point and click adventure games lately. The Red Strings Club isn’t even the first cyberpunk thriller I’ve played this year.
Read Only Memories: 2064 was an excellent display of voice acting and had been my favourite point and click so far but The Red Strings Club makes a strong play for the top of my list.
This is a cyberpunk thriller, which means a big corporation is trying to shift society into a totalitarian dystopic future. Like every other title in the genre, what it means to be sentient will be a huge topic of discussion, Commentary on the human condition is rife throughout all dialogue and a large number of people have glowing robot limbs.
If you don’t like existentialism and small terrorist groups fighting against global mega-corporations in the name of humanity then you’ve picked the wrong kind of game. All the classic cyberpunk tropes hold strong in this haunting glimpse into an imaginary future.
The Red Strings Club Review
The story revolves around three protagonists.
Brandeis the augmented super hacker, he’s brash and hot-headed. Donovan the bartender who already knows what you’re having and finally, Akara-184, the recently liberated, secret high tech android designed to help humans reach perpetual happiness.
Her ability to recognise people’s emotional state reflects empathy and her ability to reflect on her own actions mirrors sentience. It’s not a real sci-fi until an artificial mind starts acting like a human. Right?
Each of the three protagonists presents a different minigame you’ll need to pass in order to progress the story. Akara takes an opportunity to express her creativity. Unique expression is another quality inherent to humanity, which is exemplified in the Genetic Implant Pottery game.
Our sympathetic android generates high-tech implants using a lathe. These implants might make someone immune to negative criticism or increase their abilities in persuasion. Depending on what the situation calls for, Akara makes a calculated decision to upgrade her subject to achieve maximum happiness.
The game takes place in the titular Red Strings Club as Donovan brokers information and emotional cocktails via his skill in ‘Psychological Bartending’. A brilliant, insightful technique where Donny combines bourbon, tequila, vodka and absinthe to highlight his mark’s emotions and loosen their tongues.
I always believed getting pissed and running your mouth was standard but this guy puts a really nice spin on it.
Donovan’s game makes for the majority of the gameplay. A customer saunters into the club and is met with a lighter for the cigarette and an ear for their problems. Everyone that walks through the door knows the bartender has an ear to the ground and will try to get info from you as hard as you try to pull info from them.
You’ll need to be crafty with the cocktails and devilish with the details to progress through the story.
Degree in Mixology
The weight of every dialogue option is made very clear as Donovan reflects on the verbal transactions’ both internally and with Akara-184. Following a conversation, Akara-184 will quiz Donovan to see if he really understood what the target was saying.
If you failed to get all the information available you’ll probably fail the quiz. This sucks double because Akara-184 rewards you with roofies and other skills to help you crack the harder info-nuts.
I do mean roofies too. Deadset, you can drug your customers so they think they’ve just sat down for their first cocktail. Comes in handy when you’ve made them angry or they wanna set a limit on your number of questions.
Brandeis’ ‘Vocal Corporate Espionage” Minigame sees Brandeis’ impersonate corporate bigwigs and cronies alike to try and collapse ‘Evil Inc’ from within. Though, he’ll need reliable info from Donovan to avoid suspicion and pull the right strings.
Espionage via Alcohol
While Playing, I was really caught up in The Red Strings Club. The pixel art is excellent and the dialogue, super tight. The characters swear which I always enjoy and the existentialism wasn’t overly repetitive or basic.
It can be a real drag to play these games which are 95% reading when the writing is weak. Listening to some jerk say “but robutts r kind of liek ppl 2 if dey feal sadd!!1!” Asking me to identify the parallel between high functioning artificial intelligence in 30 different ways isn’t an interesting take on the future of humans and AI.
I think The Red Strings Club does a pretty good job at keeping the conversation interesting and avoiding the pitfalls of writing about the human condition within the constraints of a futuristic world.
The gameplay stays fresh with these mini-games too. Point and Click can be a serious drag but the games pop up often enough to keep the gameplay fresh but not so often that it felt like WarioWare. Some of the other PnCs I played recently had mini-games but mostly were just very convoluted clickathons where you needed to find random items to interact with often senseless action much later in the story.
The Red Strings Club gives you options that make sense and reward comprehension and focus. Your decisions have meaning and clearly affect the story.
It’s so rewarding to have dialogue options that so clearly generate results.
The Red Strings Club was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by the publisher.