The GWJ Adventure Game Club - Game 22: The Red Strings Club

The Red Strings Club (2018)


Developped by Deconstructeam and published by Devolver Digital. In this cyberpunk world, devices implanted in humans have become commonplace as a way to alter one's physical features and mental functions. Centered on its three playable, main characters (enhanced human and hacker Brandeis, implantless and club owner Donovan, and android Akara-184), the game offers different gameplay mechanisms. Mix drinks, interrogate people, craft and insert implants. Ultimately, your goal is to infiltrate a large corporation.

You can find the wikipedia page here, usual spoiler warning apply. How Long to Beat estimates about 4 hours to completion. Available on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Nintendo Switch.

The main thread is right this way. We'll be playing The Red Strings Club in August 2020, with an extra month should you require it.

i'm in. This one's been on the pile for a while. And sounds like it's super short, which is what i'm looking for right now.

I played this shortly after it came out and really enjoyed it. It is fairly light on the puzzles and more focused on dialogue and choices. The art is really cool too. I'm curious to see what you all think about it.

Played some last night. Not what I was expecting...though I wasn't sure what I was expecting. The music is great and the dialog sharp. I just started formulating a plan on what to do after someone's arrival and the discovery of the reasons for her being there.

The little minigames aren't bad and also don't overstay their welcomes.

I'm looking forward to this. I'm going to be away for a while, so I think I'm just going to play it by myself, no stream. Hope that's okay with you all.
And most importantly, I hope you are all taking care of yourself and staying hydrated in this monstrous summer heat. Unless you're in the southern hemisphere. Enjoy that winter.

So I'm barely 15 minutes in, and I can already say that this is GOTY material for me, folks. Aus_TBirD is right, the music *is* amazing.
Get on it!!!

Totally missed this was the month’s pick somehow. Already have thanks to Twitch. Installing now!

I don't have a very good device to play this upon (that may change soon, this laptop is basically dying right before my eyes), so I'm just observing, will likely look up a playthrough.

For what it’s worth, it’s not super intense resource wise. It’s pixels, good old fashioned pixels. And yet, what they do with them is amazing. Small details about a character, indicating their mood changes, like sitting up straighter or tapping their feet. It’s really well done.

Also, for those of you who are as clueless as me, there are actual arrows on the bottles in the bar tending minigame to indicate which way the circle will move. Totally went over my head at first so I was stumbling in the dark. ^^

Oh wow. I totally did not notice that either.

Glad it wasn't just me, phew! I thought that was a nice touch, once I actually noticed it. And it does help a lot when you're mixing drinks.

I'm very close to the end. Some things happened that I tried to avoid, but so be it. Loving the atmosphere as well as the writing in spite of the occasional typo. It even set me up to really sound a bit hypocritical at one point.

Re: the drinks. I picked up on the arrows, but I had to make educated guesses (luckily correct) on which color spirit was what.

I only found one typo (“me” instead of “be”) but so far so good! I’m also close to the end, and I just want to say that the CTO looks exactly the way I’d expect a CTO to look.

And I also ended up being a total hypocrite, so right there with you.

Edit: I just wrapped it up, the final stage in the office was a bit longer than I expected and a bit fiddly if that makes any sense.
The ending felt a bit abrupt and I’m still digesting it, I’ll have more thoughts on that later.
I do want to address the dead naming which had been mentioned in the club’s main thread, it’s... not great. Honestly, it serves no specific purpose aside from cracking a password and could’ve easily been swapped out for something else. I realize don’t have much of a leg to stand on as a cis person, but the whole thing felt contrived and unnecessarily outed the character.
I don’t know, maybe I’m totally off base here. I’d love to hear more opinions on the matter.

A word of advice though, I’d steer clear of the Steam discussions about the game, they’re quite toxic (not too unsurprisingly, it’s Steam discussions after all).

I still have a bunch of questions. Might have to do a second playthrough.

Eleima wrote:

I still have a bunch of questions. Might have to do a second playthrough.

On stream?

I’m not sure about that. It’s not voiced, and I read super fast, a lot faster than I can speak. And since my evenings have been shortened significantly, I might be playing during the day, when I can grab a half hour to myself, so that just wouldn’t be feasible. ^^

Finished last night. Eleima is right - that last section is WAY longer than expected. Planned 30 minutes, played 90.

Short version: VERY impressed! Open questions remain and I'm not sure they will ever be answered, but overall, "Wow!"

Longer version:
The writing is the core of the game; everything else is just decoration, and luckily the writing (aside from the aforementioned typos), is mostly excellent. There were some twists I saw coming, and some turns I didn't. I was forced into uncomfortable choices, none of which were black or white, but rather varying shades of gray. In some cases it even seemed like more or less opposite choices were equally gray.

The dialogue is occasionally interrupted by minigames which attempt to immerse you into the world and into the role of the character you are controlling. Their effectiveness varied but was never a complete waste; rather, sometimes they just seemed to go on a bit too long (mainly the first one).

As has been mentioned, the pixel art is very expressive and gets lots of mileage out of not only its low-fi aesthetics (beautiful as they may be), but also the surprisingly limited number of locales/scenes. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say there are 10 different screens at most, and yet the game never feels "small".

Have I mentioned the Blade Runner inspired music enough? I'm mentioning it again right now. Love it!

Regarding the dead naming - these are my impressions as an early 40's white guy who had never even known about dead naming being a thing until a few years ago (please forgive my ignorance).


Initially, I didn't feel it was done inappropriately. I took it as a private obsession Edgar had with Larissa that wasn't meant to get out. Perhaps they had a thing before Larissa's transition, maybe not; I couldn't say either way. His password seemed to be a combination of the two things apparently most important to him.
Then I called HR with Larissa's voice, and the game practically beats you over the head with "See, see?? Larissa used to biologically be a guy!!!"
That, I totally considered unneccessary.

Finally, while I have praised this game very highly, there are a few other small things that bothered me:


I accidentally ratted out Diana, so I used the amnesia pill on Naima to keep her safe, yet it seemed to not make a difference. My only explanation is that she uploaded the info about Diana the instant she found out.

Speaking of Naima, she sure went along easily with all of my sabotage orders.

I don't quite understand why Akara could only come up with a single voice profile for Brandeis when there was several hours worth of time to prepare, but once Brandeis is in the office, creating voice profiles only takes a few seconds.

A few spoilery thoughts:


Did not see the big twist coming....but I should have.

Did not see the Donovan and Brandeis resolution coming!

Wasn't Gost supposed to get paid somehow? Did I forget that Donovan paid him or was the payment the last scene?

I got so close to saving Joanna (I think), but at the final choice I thought the dialogue option that probably would have saved her (in retrospect) was a bit too pushy (and set her up for disappointment), so I stayed vague....which turned out to be a mistake.

Regarding the deadnaming, I hadn't mentioned that part, but YES, abso-freakin'-lutely. And anyway,


Who the f*ck is Keren from HR anyway? That lady was TOTALLY fishy. Anyone else thinking she was a bot or a plant or something. I don't know, but it was way too weird.

And yes, I too was surprised with Naima's... willingness to comply.

More spoilery thoughts:


Totally didn't see the twist coming!!
I didn't get a Donovan-Brandeis resolution! Just had the conversation, and that was it. Cue Donovan making himself a drink, and I got kicked to the desktop! Maybe I missed something and got a "bad" ending?
Gost got paid with the drink, no? What last scene? What are you talking about?
I totally saved Joanna, yay!
Also, I'm replaying and noticed that Donovan's limp is visible in the first scene when he brings Brandeis his drink. Also, they share a cigarette. And did anyone else find their selfie in Donovan's notebook?

All in all, I'm not too comfortable with the deadnaming, but this game GOES PLACES. It's one of those games I'm thinking about when I'm not playing. That raises questions and makes you think about... things and themes.

And yes, the soundtrack is amazing, I'm in love with it, I think I might've mentioned it before. It's good and it's on Spotify.

Edit: Ok, so I'm well into my second playthrough, and this is so weird, but I'm POSITIVE I'm seeing dialog I hadn't seen before, in particular:


References to the relationship between Brandeis and Donovan. Diana specifically calls Brandeis "your boyfriend" when talking to Donovan, the pair are using "handsome", "sweet cheeks" a lot more. I'm almost certain this is conditioned by my choices in the final scene when Brandeis was falling out a window, because I went with "I love you, Donovan" because eff yes, if I was about to die, I'd want to tell my loved one how much they mean to me. Am I completely off base here? Or am I just misremembering and seeing all the hints I hadn't before? I swear this game is messing with my brain.

ANOTHER EDIT: Ok, I'm not imagining things. Yes, this game "remembers" a previous playthrough. I've just opened my notebook and it still has the info I gathered on my first pass. That's fascinating.

Eleima wrote:

ANOTHER EDIT: Ok, I'm not imagining things. Yes, this game "remembers" a previous playthrough. I've just opened my notebook and it still has the info I gathered on my first pass. That's fascinating.

Really? That's cool! I'll try to bring myself to replaying it.

It's almost like it's a rogue like!

So I've just wrapped up my first playthrough and WE NEED to talk about the ending.


I think my problem (and this isn't specific to this particular game) is that I want a happy ending. I want Brandeis to be picked up by Donovan in a helicopter and for them to go riding out into the sunset, leaving Akara androids broken in their wake. But that's not meant to be. That's not how the game ends. Because that's not what the game is trying to tell us.

I'm still missing an achievement, but I don't think I'll do a third playthrough.

Eleima wrote:

I'm still missing an achievement, but I don't think I'll do a third playthrough. :D

Welp, I lied. It was also the opportunity to just go wild and tried responses I hadn't previously tried.
I want to reiterate how impressed with the expressiveness of the sprites. The one that jumped out to me this time was:


Dr Edgar Coldstream when you server him "Fraud". He gets all hunched up and fidgets, shuts down and pretty tells you outright he didn't really invent Akara after all and that it's been maintaining and upgrading itself for a while anyway. Big time foreshadowing there.

Red Strings Club and Eliza feel very much of a part, to me, despite them being very different as games and in setting. They're both dealing with issues around the interface between society and technology

I just finished a new playthrough of the game and it was even better than I remembered. I'm pretty sure I learned things that I hadn't seen before. The game definitely asks some difficult questions and I loved seeing the relationship between Donovan and Brandeis unfold. Wonderful game.

I ended up spreading my playthrough throughout the month and I think that was to the detriment of my memory. Still, I enjoyed it a lot.

In relation to not remembering stuff,


I didn’t recall any indication of anything more than friendship between Brandeis and Donovan. So at the end I wasn’t expecting the love dialogue options.

I agree that the deadnaming seemed unnecessary and I didn’t see the point.

I enjoyed the puzzles for the most part.


I wasn’t really crazy about the phone number stuff at the end. Using the voices etc. was a cool concept but I found playing through that a little tedious.

I agree on the comment about using the phone. It does get tedious. If I'm kind to the devs, maybe they were trying to make you feel like Brandies using an old technology he did not know and was cumbersome to him. But at the end of the day, at least they could at least give you a way to speed dial a number you have already dialed before.

Agree 100%. A speed dialing would've been extremely practical. Especially on repeat playthroughs.

I'm curious. Anyone else get around to this one that hasn't chimed in yet? I know a few voiced interest, but did life and other stuff get in the way? Super curious to hear other opinions!

I guess I never did manage to check in after playing, oops. I very much enjoyed it. Artfully animated, great score, dialogue was (mostly) well thought out and the choices offered were surprisingly difficult. Several of the interactions with other characters regarding the trans character did feel pretty uncomfortable, which is maybe as intended I guess? I dunno, it's probably the closest I can come to saying anything negative about this game.


Something the about the scene bookending the story had me expecting a happier ending for some reason, so that was rough, especially given the relationship that to me had been reasonably well established by that point.

Since finishing it's still been on my mind, and I'm often tempted to boot it back up just to soak in that rainy cityscape title screen for a while.

Oh, awesome! It's so great to hear your thoughts, and I have the exact same vibe as you regarding the spoiler, to be honest. Still, good stuff, I'm glad I played it.
No need to boot up the game if you just want that main screen vibe, just head right this way (Spotify link for the first track)!!

After starting months ago for the club, I just finished this up tonight. There's nothing like a "leaving GamePass on Oct 31st" message to force me finish up a game.


I'm not sure I liked the mini-games. Mixing drinks was decent, dialing was ok, the silly personality thing in the beginning just made everything take longer than it should. Making drinks was clunky. The personality match made the beginning of the game slower than it needed to be.

I once had the game restore before the quiz with the Akara. Since it had been a while, I was really guessing. I was sure I went through the quiz before I quit.

I kind of liked the end with the number and voice matching. It was the most adventure gaming part of the game. It was longer than expected but didn't drag. I really appreciated the note taking it did for you.

I missed the relationship between Donovan and Brandeis. I suspect this was just the time gap between when I started and finished. I really didn't remember enough to know where it came from.

I did tell Donovan about the threat. I mean, you have to warn the living. Don't you?!

Overall, thumbs up. It just reminded me how many of these little gems are floating about in my Steam list I've never got around to playing!

Oh awesome, I'm glad you got around to playing, Fuzzyslug! I have to say, I was surprised to see a thumbs up, having read your spoiler, but I'm glad you had a positive experience, overall.
I definitely think it's a better experience if you play it all close together, though. Can't be help though, sometimes that's just life for ya!

Yeah I had the same experience with forgetting that relationship maybe due to gap of time between starting and finishing.