A powerful corporation Supercontinent Ltd is about to release Social Psyche Welfare: a system that will create a utopia free of depression, anger and fear. Take on the role of freelance hacker Brandeis and bartender Donovan who set out to discover what is really going on with the help of a wayward android.
The story is set in a cyberpunk world and is driven forward mainly by dialogues so you will spent most of the time talking to characters and learning information. A majority of the conversations takes place at the Red Strings Club – a stylish bar where Donovan mixes up something way more special than the classical gin and tonic for each customer.
Apart from being a handy bartender and information broker, Donovan is very good at reading people. This way he can mix drinks that bring out particular emotions which can affect conversations with the customers and encourage them to share more information than they normally would. While the whole concept is quite exciting, mixing the drinks can get tricky.
The interface shows a silhouette of the customer with several spots marked as centres of different emotions. There is also a “soul node” which moves in four different directions based on how you mix the spirits. Donovan can pour straight into the glass or use a shaker to combine two kinds of alcohol which allows the node to move diagonally. Since everything is controlled with mouse, all you have to do is pick up a bottle, move it and tilt to pour. The whole process of bartending isn’t however as easy as it sounds. We hate to admit this, but a lot of alcohol was spilled during our playthrough. Aiming to pour into the glass or shaker is actually quite difficult and same goes for matching the amount of liquors correctly in order to move the soul node where you want it. This particular task can start to feel quite repetitive as you need to serve at least one drink for each of the customers.
Apart from bartending, there is only one other minigame that requires such precision. One of the opening scenes takes you back to a factory where you step into the shoes of an Akara – a special type of an empathy android. This particular one is tasked with creating and installing upgrades for humans.
These modules are made on a pottery ring with basic crafting tools which are quite tricky to use when you need to craft a complicated design based on a blueprint. The use of pottery itself somehow doesn’t fit into the story. Considering the context, one would expect that an evil corporation would have access to slightly more advanced methods.
Akara, however, is a very interesting and useful character who later joins Donovan at the bar. She can scan the surrounding to see who is approaching and also suggests a minigame each time a customer leaves the bar. It is important to pay extra attention to details and read between the lines. She will ask you a set of questions, aiming to find out how much you were able to learn about the characters. If you get at least seven out of ten right, she will give you a special ingredient to make your drinks even more efficient.
Thanks to her varied skillset, Akara can also recreate other people’s voices. As Brandeis and Donovan are investigating Supercontinent, you will also get a chance to impersonate various characters on the phone to get information.
The strongest side of the Red Strings Club is definitely the script. The gameplay heavily relies on colourful characters and witty dialogues that encourage you to keep clicking through them. Whether you’re serving a drink to a serious corporate lawyer or talking on the phone with a crazy scientist who also happens to be high, the experience feels real.
A nice feature is an outline of the game progress that allows revisiting decisions made along the way and discovery of important facts. Compared to lengthy journals and logs which are sometimes used for this purpose, the outline is quite an elegant solution.
The environment and setting have quite a realistic feel to them despite the simple pixel graphics. The eerie electro soundtrack adds a lot to the atmosphere and whole experience as the music changes to a dramatic melody when an eerie character walks into the bar for example.
The Red Strings Club also stands out for dealing with ethics and philosophical questions. Should eternal peace be bestowed upon people or should they have the right to decide for themselves whether to fight or not? The story builds up around the idea of altering humanity and leads to an emotional and unexpected ending.
The Spanish studio Deconstructeam did a solid job and created an intriguing story. If you enjoy going on adventures, have an investigative mind and don’t object if a game is not action heavy, we can recommend checking out this game.
- Captivating story
- Original ending
- Great soundtrack
- Very well written script
- Some of the mechanics could work better
- Gameplay feels repetitive