The Red Strings Club is an adventure game from Deconstructeam, the developers of Gods Will Be Watching, that tasks players with helping a mysterious bartender named Donovan and his boyfriend, a hacker named Brandeis, investigate the Supercontinent corporation and its employees. While much of this is done through conversations, the game also relies on two major minigames to determine the course of the game. The thing is, the minigames aren’t won in the way you would expect.
The first minigame people will encounter is Donovan’s bartending ability. While there is not a clear explanation for it, he is apparently summoning a “muse” (the player) to mix the drinks for his customer based on emotions. Things start out relatively simple. Each bottle has a label on it that notes if the indicator will be moved up, down, left or right. You need to fill the glass to encourage the person who will drink it to experience different emotions, which will in turn influence their behavior when answering Donovan’s questions. As you get further in the game, you will have the opportunity to use a shaker to combine liquors to make them more potent and allow for diagonal movement. It is even possible to get two additional spirits that further alter the indicator. You even add ice to shrink the size of the indicator to match the target.
In every case, the goal is to match up with one of the emotional targets. The Red Strings Club encourages you to experiment, as there are no penalties or time limits. If I made a mistake with a drink, I tipped over the glass or shaker and tried again. The very first drink you make has only one possible emotion, but as your investigation goes on, more options appear. It is even possible to switch to a new drink during an interrogation, if you think it would prove helpful. During my playthrough, I felt like most responses would have have offered some sort of insight with every emotional response, something that especially comes up after an encounter with one woman who requires you to make her multiple drinks.
The other minigame involves a sort of pottery. Except instead of clay, you are helping an android named Akara-184 mold what is basically biomass into implants that will alter the behavior and life of their new user. A database of available options is there, with various effects each one will have on the person’s life. They get a case file saying what the person is hoping to achieve by going under the knife, and it is up to Akara-184’s discretion to do what it believes is best for the person. (This is due to them being the first AI with actual consciousness and emotions.) You then have a block in front of you with the shape you need and various tools you can use to try and match that shape. Once it is accurate enough for the implant to appear in green, it can be finished and popped into a new patient’s body.
Like the bartending minigame, this is one where people can experiment again. It is easy to reset the mass, with The Red Strings Club letting you go back to your most recent change or keep clicking until you have a solid rectangle again. There are multiple tools for pressing in to create the desired implant. While profiles do have recommendations, you can experiment and go with other options along the way. The choices are Akara-184’s, after all. There’s a sense of freedom that comes from knowing you just need to get things as close as possible, the make your own decisions as to which implant should be applied in each situation.
Having open-ended minigames in The Red Strings Club is quite an interesting element. There are different options for each scenario, so it is not like you have to purposely shoot for one correct answer to win. You can experiment with the mechanics, which means no penalty as you work out what needs to be done. It lets you interact more with the game’s world, without having to worry about getting things done within a certain amount of time. It is both entertaining and freeing.
The Red Strings Club will come to the PC on January 22, 2018.