The Red Strings Club Review

  • First Released Jan 22, 2018
  • PC

Is absolute obedience the fine print of eternal happiness?

Truly charismatic characters are a rare thing to encounter in games. A distinct feeling of connection to fictional people depends on key elements like good writing, laser-sharp timing, and unique perspectives. With all these concepts in place, you're more likely to be drawn into a story or relate to a character's motives, and subsequently, remember those characters for a long time to come. This is the main reason The Red Strings Club is so strong.

With an animation style that recalls classic LucasArts adventure games, The Red Strings Club begins in the titular basement bar owned and operated by information broker Donovan. Along with his partner, the street-smart hacker Brandeis, Donovan values secrets more than money and as such, he is well-known throughout his community as the man who can get answers. Late one night, the pair get a visit from a malfunctioning android who is desperate for help. When Brandeis is able to access the android's memory banks, an extraordinary journey begins, where you play as all three characters in a tale filled with unexpected emotional depth and individuality.

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While the majority of the game involves speaking to different people, the tense and poignant dialogue choices give even the smallest exchanges a surprising amount of weight. Trust and deduction play big roles in your choices when learning who these people are and what they want from you. Each question or answer seemingly branches off into an enticingly different part of the story, and it's exciting to consistently wonder if you've made the right choice.

You quickly learn that Donovan is famous for matching drinks to customer's specific needs and desires. Throughout certain conversations, the game shifts to a cocktail-mixing mini-game where you must pour the exact amount of certain alcohol types to gain access to different parts of a person's emotions. Setting off a character's depression, pride, fear, lust, and so on can expand dialogue choices and give you additional clues on how to solve the greater mystery involving corporate greed, the ethics of technology, and a violent conspiracy.

Another large share of your involvement also features the aforementioned android, Akara-184. Akara is skilled at creating internal modules which can artificially manipulate the emotions of human customers upon request. These can potentially reduce anxiety, boost confidence, or dull fears. In creating the modules, a pottery lathe (along with a choice of soothing music) is presented, and it's up to you to not only carefully shape the module to suit the customer but decide which components to install. For example, someone wants to boost their ego for an upcoming meeting, but it's up to you to judge what is best for them based on the limited information provided to you. Would they be better off suppressing their selfish desires? You can experiment and witness the outcomes, although things might not go as you planned.

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This is where the heart of The Red Strings Club lies: exploring the limits and depths of human emotion. Donovan, Brandeis, and Akara-184 all begin to question their motivations and their purposes as they inhabit the dreary end of this rainy, atmospheric metropolis. Their internal dilemmas are where some of the game's best moments are born. Do our emotions, especially the most horrible ones, make us who we are? If possible, would we keep our sadness but remove our depression? Are we shaped by our suffering?

More than a few times, you are faced with decisions based on ideas that you might not usually consider. Uncomfortable concepts laid out in front of you present a can of worms that, when opened, can either be fascinating or downright terrifying. Weighty decisions are heightened by the game's exceptional writing. Whether it's friendly conversations at the bar, a dangerous argument on a rooftop, or a compelling series of investigative phone calls, you find yourself hanging on every word, becoming sympathetic to conflicting opinions and building a strong connection to characters. Every piece of narrative is more fascinating than the last and before you know it, all that matters is discovering what happens next. From managing a hostile but vulnerable whistleblower to exploiting the affection of a friend to get vital information, paying attention to every action is key to uncovering these fascinating plot threads.

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As the layers of mystery peel back, you'll begin to realize the ramifications your decisions have in this world. While you might regret some answers and be confident in others, the delayed cause and effect of some of the game's choices can have you questioning how you could have possibly formed those opinions in the first place, which makes this adventure an extremely personal one. The cast of characters that populate the story each have their own history, motives, and personality conveyed in a direct and intelligent way. Gost the mysterious smuggler, Larissa the extroverted marketing director, and self-obsessed rock star scientist Edgar lead you through an exploration in relationship manipulation. Can you trust this person? Do you want them to trust you? These fantastic, varied characters make you want to settle in and chat, rather than rush through the dialog.

Supporting these moments is the detailed environments; The bar itself is a major location and thanks to the gorgeous 2D art design, it is a space that's enjoyable to spend time in. Subtle details like Brandeis lighting his cigarette, the lonely ceiling fan, the hint of the city when a customer enters, and the sparkling, electronic soundtrack is a haunting combination which forms a tangible sense of atmosphere.

From the far-reaching implications of ethics and artificial intelligence to the heart-wrenching relationship between Donovan and Brandeis, the moment-to-moment storytelling in The Red Strings Club is the kind that can have a strong, personally resonant impact. It puts you in circumstances that make you pause for thought, beyond simply contemplating the motives of the character. There is inventive design in its locations and scenarios which makes you not only want to revel in them, but revisit them with a different purpose once the credits roll.

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From the game's opening piano chords, The Red String Club's futuristic exploration of themes regarding human emotion, strong writing, and exciting situations create an experience that is deeply gratifying. The cast of relatable, three-dimensional characters elevate the stakes of every bullet fired, secret divulged and cocktail poured. They are flawed and dangerous, but also convey admirable human characteristics that feel inspirational. The Red Strings Club is a tense adventure about a cast of characters that endanger themselves for goals that aren't necessarily guaranteed, a rewarding journey into the human soul, and a game that pushes the limits of what a point-and-click adventure can do.

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The Good
Unique, well-written characters
Fascinating gameplay mechanics and narrative choices help create an emotional story
Refreshing and unexpected themes explore tantalising questions about humanity
Audiovisual design creates a beautifully atmospheric world
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

David Rayfield has made some questionable choices in bars in the middle of the night. Fortunately, only a few have led to him attempting to bring down global corporations. The Red Strings Club was reviewed on PC. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher.
49 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for CyberEarth

Not sure why this game got a 9. It should have been a 10, since nothing was listed in "the bad". I mean, come on Gamespot! Get with it!

But on a more serious note - there's literally TONS of Visual Novel games out there that Gamespot doesn't review. As such, I can't see them judging this game fairly. The game does nothing new for the VN / Point-and-Click style of game and for that reason, it doesn't deserve a 9.

Avatar image for porkchopsandwiches

Created an account just to post this: This is a *great* game. In the style of choose-your-own adventure novels, you use dialogue to uncover facts about people you're investigating. It's a game (and not an interactive story) because you can win or lose each character investigation, and that impacts both the next investigation and the story.

This game reminds me of board games like "Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective" - you really need to be perceptive (and sometimes take sensible logical leaps and guesses) to get the questions right.

Also, the story is great, a thoughtful rumination on the future of technology :)

For folks crowing about "SJW games," I don't get your complaint. So, there are gay characters. Ok, what else is wrong with it? There is no political message to this game. Gay people exist, so that's cool, but I don't think you can really complain about it. There's also a transgender character. It's the future. One lady has half of her head replaced by a cyborg brain. Surely it's not so far fetched that transgendered people can exist?

If you're a trogolodyte, don't worry, the game makes literally no comment on the rightness/wrongness of being either gay or transgendered. That just kind of exists as background flavor text.

TLDR, this game is rated a 9/10, I agree that it is an excellent game that deserves a 9/10. The dialogue is stronger than a Long Island Ice tea from a bartender who's trying to screw you after last call. I left thinking dark thoughts about both my job in marketing and the uncontrollable future of AI technology.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

I did some research and came up with this:

A game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool.[1] Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work (such as professional players of spectator sports or games) or art (such as jigsaw puzzles or games involving an artistic layout such as Mahjong, solitaire, or some video games).

Hope this helps with the confusion.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson

*Comment about how because I don't personally like these kinds of games no one should be allowed to make them.*

Avatar image for greaseman1985

Oh look, another interactive CG movie with 1989 graphics. These "critics" are in love with these non-games.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@greaseman1985: This certainly looks solidly like a video game to me!

Avatar image for 4mnesiac

@greaseman1985: oh look , another judgmental comment of someone who hasnt played the game. For your information, point-and-click adventures are a classic videogame genre much more storied than first person shooters.

Avatar image for greaseman1985

@4mnesiac: Who said anything about FPS games? I enjoy complex RPGs like Witcher, Fallout, Elder Scrolls, etc.

Avatar image for good_coop89

omg this gane so borring all teh carakters do is talk and talk omg usually i just skip all talking and cut seens in gamez apart from gta 5 becos trever is so funny haha lol he also shouts and swers just like me im just like him haha but anyway this gamz grafics are lyke stupid litttel kidz mad them haha lolz oh well back to gta 5 and best gam evar made pubg

...But seriously this sounds great. As long as the writing is of the quality that it's claimed to be, this seems like one to be remembered. I'll give it a shot, for sure.

Avatar image for enthusiast

@good_coop89: I am glad there are people with this attitude. It allows such games to succeed. I don't know about this game, but it seems like it could be really interesting.

Avatar image for KingKalo

Just here to say I love seeing 4 9s in a row on the reviews. It is winter, it means the games are worth checking out and I shall.

Avatar image for SaurabhAV

I think people are just salty about the review score.. because some of their favorite blockbuster titles received lower scores. You have to understand that Gamespot isn't saying this game is better than blockbuster games. They are saying that in this medium of heavy story based indy game genre this game is Great. And for that you should applaud them. I am sure if I go look in Steam right now this game will be rated overwhelmingly positive by the user base.

Avatar image for commander

wait, what? I woke up in 1993 buhuhu

all that she wants is another baby, all that she wants, she gone tomorrow


Avatar image for realzoverfeelz

Another day, another non-game given high praise by an sjw.

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@realzoverfeelz: Another artistic game given praise, another new account created just to post an inane comment.

Avatar image for cappy

@zmanbarzel: nailed it.

Avatar image for realzoverfeelz

@zmanbarzel: My account being new doesn't make what I said untrue. At least I triggered you enough to click on my name though.

Avatar image for 4mnesiac

@realzoverfeelz: point and click adventures are more pedigreed games than fps's.

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@realzoverfeelz: Yes, triggered me so much that I expended the energy needed for two clicks of my mouse, a fraction of the amount I use each day accidentally clicking on a wrong story due to a late-loading ad.

Avatar image for zedetach

@zmanbarzel: He does have a point. It's not a game (by industry standards) but an interactive experience. However, it's a good thing that there are such 'games' as these as it only helps broaden the appeal of the medium, especially to non-gamers. Modern gaming isn't all about shooting.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@zedetach: A little bewildered by some of these comments. I thought it was just trolling but... Adventure games are one of the largest and most popular genres, with a history dating back 30 / 40 years. If it's not a video game, what would this be? It's certainly now a a chair or zebra.

Avatar image for cappy

@p1p3dream: yeah, these comments are pretty strange. I’ve not played the game yet, but it seems like a pretty classic point and clock adventure. Some of the early one’s, like the King’s Quest series or the Lucas Arts ones, were award winning and widely,loved by the gaming community.

Avatar image for altairdarius

what the hell man you gave a 9 to a game that doesn't have "the bad" things

Avatar image for chillingnaire

YEah i dont like talking, walking, press simulators

Avatar image for enthusiast

@chillingnaire: That is the thing. You may not like that kind of games, but there are people who love such games. In your case, you may simply get a game that is more to your liking. There is no need to be frustrated about other people getting what they like. You enjoy what you enjoy, others enjoy different things.

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@chillingnaire: No worries, there are plenty of running and shooting simulators out there for you...

Avatar image for illegal_peanut

@chillingnaire: Same.

I'm like this: If they want to make a video game that's like 90% story, 10% game. Then just write a book, make a movie, make a TV show, or even write a play. But, just stop filling the gamer-space with video games. that has as much interaction as turning book pages.

Avatar image for p1p3dream

@illegal_peanut: Books / movies don't have real time rendering or let you interact with story the way a video game does. I know tons of people who loves these types of games, myself included. :)

Avatar image for CrackDummy

@illegal_peanut: thats a shallow way of thinking

Avatar image for Acillatem1993

@illegal_peanut: Nah man, story driven video games have something other mediums dont and thats interactivity. if I can do a minimal amount of gameplay and then watch quality cutscenes I will! And I'll enjoy every second of it!! :P

Avatar image for omegasloth

This has a really cool concept.

I dont want to read too much of the review and potentially spoiler some things but if it is anything like Nier Automata in exploring human emotion and existence im sold.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

Human emotion? There is enough of that rubbish in real life. Maybe there would be less ''emotion'' around if people stopped living in debt and woke up to themselves and realised you are alone in this world and nobody else really gives a shit beyond their own selfish needs.

Now there's an interesting concept for a game.

Avatar image for TenraiSenshi

@deviltaz35: "Now there's an interesting concept for a game."

That game would probably be about as abysmal as your outlook on life. I think I'll pass.

Avatar image for chillingnaire

@deviltaz35: don’t end up in debt lol

Avatar image for harkharkthemark

@deviltaz35: Your comment is bad, and you should feel bad!

Oh wait, you very obviously already do.

Avatar image for timthegem

I remember when Myst pushed the limits of what a point-and-click adventure could do.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@timthegem: At least Myst had decent puzzles something lacking from far too many point and click games. Thimbleweed park is one of the best point and clicks around now. Or pretty much anything from Wadjet Eye.

Myst unfortunately was almost ruined trying to turn it into a fully 3D interactive game instead of just leaving it as it was. Thankfully you can still play the original way.

Avatar image for doorselfin

@deviltaz35: Big ups for Wadjet Eye!

Avatar image for karavanasam

Wish it had better graphics.Not like before 2000.:D

Avatar image for breathnac

Only Gamespot will give a game a 9 and not put together a video review...

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@breathnac: the video reviews are relatively new. You must be a new user. This is where people would come to read a well written review.

Avatar image for breathnac

@Sound_Demon: Video reviews are not new. You must be an idiot.

Also I've been on this site since 2009 gtfo

I miss Kevin VanOrd he ran a tight ship. When he left this place fell apart.

Avatar image for Planeforger

@Sound_Demon: Video reviews aren't new. Gamespot was doing video reviews 15+ years ago. I seem to remember video reviews from the late 90s at well, back when Gamespot had its own TV show.

Still, I prefer written reviews. This game sounds great, btw!

Avatar image for Renunciation

Well, alright. I'm interested.

Downloading now. $13 doesn't seem like much of a gamble.

Avatar image for deviltaz35

@Renunciation: I dunno maybe you should give that $13 to the US govt . They need all the money they can muster.

Avatar image for gotrekfabian

@deviltaz35: Don't do it, Trump will only spend it on a day's worth of Pepsi!

Avatar image for Renunciation

@deviltaz35: Noble thought, but I have a lot of faith that Devolver Digital can spend my $13 in a lot better ways than the U.S. gov't would. : )

Avatar image for twztid13

@Renunciation: well put.

The Red Strings Club More Info

  • First Released Jan 22, 2018
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 2 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    Average Rating13 Rating(s)
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    Published by:
    Devolver Digital