From Devolver Digital comes The Red Strings Club- a game about drinks, choices, androids, and changing fate.
I can describe this game in three words: “What just happened?” From the first scene where you’re falling off of the skyscraper, to the pottery, to the drinks and dialogue, to the ending, that’s what kept going through my mind. I even took to lovingly calling this game “the factory of wut”, which by the end evolved into “the factory of UWOTM8”. But let’s get into some details, minus spoilers, nobody likes spoilers.
The story for this game is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and philosophical and ethical conversations with an android. You start out as Brandeis, a 27 year old “rebel” who has human implants, and you are falling from the top of a skyscraper.
Then flashback, and you end up at The Red Strings Club, playing the piano, and Donovan the barkeep is there. Donovan has a unique ability: the ability to mix drinks that attune to people’s inner emotional states. Fear, Regret, Lust, Madness, Euphoria, and those are just some of the emotions available to you to exploit. Donovan is an information broker, and he uses his otherworldly bartending skills to get people to talk and spill what he wants to know. After you mix Brandeis a drink, an android on the brink of falling apart walks into the bar.
She identifies herself as Akara-184. Brandeis decides to dive into her memory banks, see where she came from. Then she was- “you said no spoilers!” Oh right, sorry. Fast forward, she came from a corporation who is trying to make a program in order to control people and create a better world.
That is all of the details that I can give you, because a lot of it relies on the choices you make, and the rest is spoilers. Trust me though, play through until the end. Don’t stop.
Gameplay in the game is really simple. In Akara’s memory, you make pottery, which can be a little weird, but it gets easier the more you do it. As Donovan, you mix some drinks, ask some questions, complete objectives stored in your notebook. The drink mixing is fun though, and which emotion you tap into can give different answers to different questions.
You have four different drinks: Bourbon, Absinthe, Vodka, and Tequila. Each one moves the soul disk towards a particular emotion. Ice shrinks the circle down, and once the drink is ready it will resonate and turn blue, allowing you to serve it to your patron. Once you serve a drink to someone, dialogue launches, and you’re able to ask them questions to get information that you want to know. The drinks alter their mood to fit that emotion. If you serve someone a drink for Lust, they will have a very high sex drive, and if you serve a Madness drink, they will talk as if they were insane.
The dialogue sequences are fantastically well done. Any choice you make has the opportunity the change the outcome of the game by the red strings you create. You’re going to want to rush through the drink mixing just to get back to the conversations and learn more about the situation. The only reason I didn’t play through the entire game in one stream is because I had to work the next day. I just wanted to keep going.
The design of this game reminds me of an older 80s game, just a lot smoother. Neon covers the city, but it’s still pleasing to the eye. The interface is pixelated, but still readable. The text reads at a nice speed, not too fast, so I can follow it even when it gets a little confusing.
Sound is also a part of the design of the game. They are well done too, and I want to get the soundtrack for this game. It’s all ambient music, but it’s really good, nice to chill out with. If I had to describe it, I’d say 80s synth music, sort of like retrowave. It did get a bit loud at times, so I had to turn it down. I want to see if I can get the soundtrack for this, if it exists.
This is one of those games that you just have to play to get the full experience of the design and sound; it’s hard for me to explain because it’s so simple, yet so captivating.
There is only so much I can talk about with this game without spoiling it, because so much of it is determined by the choices you make throughout the game, and so much of it is spoilers and I said no spoilers.
Between the story, the design, and the way it makes you think, I can’t recommend this game enough. I’m glad I played it through to the end. One day I’m going to play this again with different choices, see what changes.
If anyone is interested in seeing my gameplay of this, it is saved on my Twitch channel. If you want to see more reviews like this, let us know via Facebook and Twitter. Keep an eye on the website and our social media for the latest gaming reviews, news, and content.