“[A] cyberpunk narrative experience about fate and happiness featuring the extensive use of pottery, bartending and impersonating people on the phone to take down a corporate conspiracy.”
Fate versus free will, determination versus rationality, chaos versus order. “The Red Strings Club” is a stunning gaming experience which wants you to take three hours to think about all these topics. But there is one single question, that you can only answer in the end: Can you connect all the dots of its narration? “What do you mean by that?”, you might ask now.
Let us start at the beginning. You will get involved in different tasks, as you take up the roles of different characters. There would be Donovan, for example: He is the bartender of “The Red Strings Club”, a dubios, but charming underground bar. His skills and the help of the cocktail mixing muse allow him to create the most amazing, literally mind-blowing drinks ever.
He achieves that by combining different liquors in such a way that they trigger a specific emotion. The triggers are visualized by the so called ‘Soul Nodes’ of a customer. Whenever the effect of a cocktail hits the sweet spot, the mood of a person will become the one of the specific ‘Soul Node’. Creating a relaxing atmosphere? No problem. Want your customer to be afraid? Sure. “But why would Donovan want to do that?”, you might ask now.
In “The Red Strings Club”, a giant corporation named Supercontinent Ltd. tries to bring a product on the market which would affect the complete mankind with farreaching consequences. Donovan on the other hand is a well-intentioned information broker who wants to help his friend Brandeis, a young aspiring hacker, to take the whole thing down. Donovan gives him secret intel that he acquired in little chats he had inside his bar with the help of his cocktails.
Brandeis becomes the main character in the end of the game, and based on Donovan’s collected information, he is able to break into the headquarters of Supercontinent Ltd. There he will encounter an ancient technology: A landline network, just usable for the workers of the seemingly evil corporation. By perfectly imitating all their voices, he can collect even more intel to find a way to destroy the new product. But Brandeis is not a master in disguising his voice – he gets help by the android Akara-184. “But who the heck is Akara-184?”, you might ask now.
Akara-184 is a special android, created by Supercontinent Ltd., which produces implants via biomaterial pottery. Each different shape serves a different purpose: There are implants to improve the charisma of someone’s social media persona, there are implants to improve someone’s persuasion skills, nearly anything is possible. Implants became a perfect optimization tool in the world of “The Red Strings Club”.
However, one day a break-in of the factory happened. The rebel Ariadne of the group PROXYMA disguised herself as a customer and was able to get Akara-184 to produce a new set of implants of her own devising. Those new implants are able to break a human’s belief in authority and rules, they could even rise up a human’s empathy. But as soon as Supercontinent Ltd. found out about that incident, they got rid off Ariadne and tried to shoot Akara-184 down, too. The android was able to escape and hid then inside the bar owned by Donovan. There she becomes an ’employee’ and helps him as well as Brandeis out in their revolutionary plans in the mysterious cyberpunk city. “That is the whole story?”, you might ask now.
Oh no, do not worry. Believe me when I tell you that I just do not want to spoil this experience too much. Even though “The Red Strings Club” is a pretty ‘small’ game, as it will only costs you three to four hours of your life for a full playthrough, there is a bunch of storylines and hidden details that I have not even mentioned so far. Everything is connected with anything and each of your actions could have enormous consequences. Just think of the butterfly effect.
But even here there are some loose ends, which is not a bad thing at all, as they add up to the whole atmosphere. For example, there is a strange smuggler named Gost, who only appears in the middle of the night and seems to be an unreal entity. He can get you anything you want, besides weapons or people, but he does not explain how or why he does that at all. His first appearance felt super intense to me. “But wait… Pottery, mixing drinks, getting intel via a landline network, ghost smugglers… What kind of a game is “The Red Strings Club” after all?”, you might ask now.
It is a surprisingly well-working mixture of genres with a delightful, philosophical story. In a poetic way you could even say that it is a metaphor for life itself: A series of different experiences which may seem to be not connected at all, but in the end you can see that your past actions had huge impacts on your present and even your future. Even weirder, the history of this game is an excellent example for that, and the game jam culture is an essential part of it.
The pottery part is an extended version of Deconstructeam’s “Zen and the Art of Transhumanism”, a game prototype created for the thirty-fifth Ludum Dare. The landline puzzles on the other hand had their first appearance in “Supercontinent Ltd“!, another game the collective created for a jam, in this case the thirty-sixth Ludum Dare. There is even a reference to “Ages of Irving”, which they created for the twenty-fourth Ludum Dare in August 2012: In “The Red Strings Club”, a freelance torturer named Irving III. appears, who is the grandson of the original character. “So, “The Red Strings Club” is a bit of a cocktail itself?”, you might ask now.
Yes, that is very true. The different experiences and achievements of its developers in the real life affected it tremendously. All the little fragments transformed into something bigger, into something wonderful even. Overall, “The Red Strings Club” is a fantastic composition, guided by a really amazing soundtrack and lovely pixel art. So please, allow me to ask you a question now: Why do you not just purchase this game, grab a cold drink and enjoy both together? Donovan, Brandeis and Akara-184 are already waiting for you. >>PLAY