Review – The Red Strings Club (Switch)

It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I absolutely love how bonkers Devolver Digital is. I love the way they swim against the tide in the gaming industry, often releasing the craziest and most entertaining indies out there. Their latest offering for the Switch, The Red Strings Club, is yet another very unusual game in their catalogue, but sadly, this is one fine example that “unusual” doesn’t always mean “fun”.

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Pump your breaks son, this isn’t Platoon…

The Reds Strings Club is a retro-styled cyberpunk adventure game starring three distinct characters. There’s Donovan, who’s both a barman and a shady information broker. Then there’s Brandeis, a hacker who’s already a few steps past his phase of just being a keyboard warrior. Finally, there’s Akara-184 (Akara for short), an android who can actually feel. Without diving into spoiler territory, as the story is the main reason you’ll want to play this game in the first place, the plot revolves around a corrupt implant megacorporation and the struggles you’re facing in order unravel a conspiracy involving their upcoming product.

The story is more than enough of a reason for you to, at the very least, check out a Let’s Play series of The Red Strings Club. Sadly, playing the game is a lot less exciting than it sounds.

To be fair, there isn’t a lot of actual gameplay in here. You’ll spend the vast majority of your time either reading tons of speech bubbles or choosing between a few dialogue options, especially when you’re the bartender. However, The Red Strings Club goes overboard with two constant gameplay sections: making drinks and, believe it or not, “pottery”.

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Where’s Patrick Swayze when you need him?

The first one is simple; you need to create cocktails that appease to each client’s specific mood. You need to pour in a set amount of three different spirits into the glass, each spirit appeasing to a different mood, until you reach the right spot indicated by a few targets onscreen. You can also use this in order to extract information from people, but give someone the wrong drink and you’ll lose the chance. This mechanic sounds fun on paper, but given how problematic the controls are with emulating the precision of a mouse, making those drinks becomes a chore pretty quickly. The amount of times you’ll be forced to make these cocktails is also annoying.

The game also loves to throw you into some bizarre cybernetic implant pottery segments every now and then and they are equally annoying for the same reasons. Creating these implants shouldn’t be a hassle. I truly believe that it must be a breeze on PC, but once again, the sensibility and precision of the Switch’s analog stick is far from ideal for these situations. Thankfully, you can use the touchscreen in The Red Strings Club¬†and it makes things a bit more bearable, but that doesn’t make those gameplay sections any less obtuse or anywhere near as interesting as the plot itself. They feel like mandatory minigames just so you can’t complain there isn’t actual gameplay in here.

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Can I just have beer instead?

The Red Strings Club is a tremendous mixed bag. Its story is absolutely fantastic and very intriguing, but anything related to actually playing it is far from ideal or entertaining. You want to know what happens next in the story, but you want to avoid playing as a potter or bartender at all costs. It might sound weird, but I honestly think The Red Strings Club would have been a much better product if it was solely a visual novel, or anything but a videogame at all.

 

Graphics: 6.5

The game goes for a 16-bit art style. It’s not entirely amazing as the characters aren’t very detailed, but it gets the job done on portable mode.

Gameplay: 4.0

There aren’t many gameplay sections in The Red Strings Club, but the few included in the game overstay their welcome pretty quickly. The controller layout isn’t very intuitive, either; the game is best played with the touchscreen.

Sound: 7.0

No voice acting at all and very few sound effects to speak of, but at least the soundtrack is quite decent…

Fun Factor: 5.0

While The Red Strings Club does feature an amazing and very intriguing story worth diving into, anything that’s remotely related to actual gameplay is incredibly boring. This game would have been a lot more digestible as a visual novel, believe it or not.

Final Verdict: 5.5

The Red Strings Club is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of The Red Strings Club was provided by the publisher.