Monday, November 25, 2013

Review - Redshirt

  • 0:48 - Gameplay
  • 2:05 - Pros
  • 4:47 - Cons
  • 7:22 - Final Thoughts

In this episode, I am currently into the middle of my second game of Redshirt. That's about ten hours in total.

In this series, you never have to wait for my opinion: in this case, Redshirt is a challenging and unique concept with a penchant for leaving you on the horns of a dilemma and a countdown to oblivion that makes each decision -- even dinner with a friend -- a life or death one.

But is it right for you? Well let's find out.


To begin, Redshirt is a sci-fi simulation game where you must use your Internet savvy to save your own life. So here's the deal: you are living on a space station and have the good fortune to learn that something awful is about to happen to the station and it's time to leave.

However, instead of evacuating the entire station -- because it would require the head mucky-mucks to do some actual work -- the powers that be have decided that they would rather save themselves and anyone else important enough to care about and leave the plebs to their fate.

How republican of them.

But that's where you come in. You are a lowly janitor whose serendipitous knowledge of the situation leaves you in a unique position. You must improve your social, educational, and occupational standing at the station until you achieve a level worthy of being taken away.

Whether you decide to befriend an ambassador, become the personal assistant of the station chief, or simply sleep your way to salvation by becoming the lesbian life partner of a high-ranking cyborg is entirely up to you. Redshirt was made by a company called Positech -- a U.K. based developer you may remember from my review of their political simulation game Democracy 3.


  • There is a lot of humor in this game. It's subtle and really adds something. There are parody lyrics and vague-booking posts that are comical, but my favorite are the animations on the "day at work" screens that show people being shredded by a copier or burning off a limb while cleaning the outside of the station.
  • The most important part of understanding this game is the timer. You have 160 days (read turns) to escape the station. Why? We're not quite sure yet. But getting off is key. This adds a huge amount of pressure on each decision. If you go to lunch with a friend, he or she will love you more, but it could ruin your Saturday of filing out paperwork to obtain your next career position. Finding the balance is key and that actually is quite challenging -- especially when you throw a demanding girlfriend into the mix.
  • You can be gay, lesbian, into robots, into space squids, or date a bowl of jello if you so choose. There is bigotry among individual NPCs, but the programmers were cool with anything. That's commendable.
  • The store in the game is hard to navigate, but the items you can buy are invaluable in pushing toward your goals. Some of the career requirements can only be achieved realistically by buying the items to level up key stats. At first I didn't like that, but now I love it because it lets you play the game differently each time by allowing you to buy different items to forge different paths.
  • The "away missions" are a great mechanic. Basically, you're forced to go to the surface of some planet and some or all of the people with you die. And it's almost always the people you like; the bastards you know usually survive. They are then replaced by new people whom you can meet and befriend.
  • The variety of events, items, and people are what really make this game replayable for a long time. It's never the same game twice. Sometimes you can meet a sugar daddy ambassador and he'll whisk you away to the rest of your life; other times, you'll have to buy a "ticket" off station and hope it's real. From space operas to floating golf, you're going to have a new narrative composed of a hundred different options.


  • The interface in this game is rough. There are important buttons nested within other important buttons and I find the ever looming presence of the Spacebook page to be distracting. I dream of someday being able to minimize that page.
  • Also on the interface design, when you launch an event and you get to choose who you will invite, the game gives you a list of everyone in the station. That's fantastic. The problem is, when you go to make a Spacebook friend, you have this wonky "web" mechanic that is visually interesting when you first look at it but really hinders your ability to find new friends quickly. It was a poor design choice.
  • If you start in the career mode, finding the next job you want to shoot for is quite easy. But if you click on one of the requirements of that job to see how you can improve yourself, you're taken out of the career mode. So it creates a situation where you have to click on the "career" button over and over again.
  • Some of the events you can host have absurd buffs and debuffs for your character. For instance, if you go to eat at the burger place, you take a huge hit to your health. This is because the writers wanted you to feel bad about turning down veggies. They need to focus less on making political statements and more on creating a balanced system where each event boosts and lowers many stats to create more dynamic ways of playing the game. To those ends, having to eat to stay "healthy" is a boring idea. Why not shower to stay healthy? Why not include sex to make your girlfriend happy? This game would be better served with a little less minutia.
  • There is a system that encourages you to accomplish certain achievements to earn a boost. If you don't like the goal they present to you, you can "buy" another random goal to replace it. That price rises sharply with each successive purchase. Even when you're first starting out, this system is worthless. Avoid it like the plague. The boosts it gives you are practically worthless and it isn't smart enough to give you credit, for instance, for a job it asks you to get that is now behind you on the career tree. If I'm Rank 4, I should get credit for the Rank 2 job I'm clearly not going to go back and get just for the boost.

Final Thoughts

It may seem weird to buy a game whose sales pitch is, "Use a quasi-Facebook system to make people love you." But this game is more than that. It's a suspenseful game with an ever-present timer and a bevy of people all vying for your attention while you try to sneak in some personal time to get yourself to a rank that warrants your continued existence in the eyes of others.

Though decidedly camp and marred by a noisy interface, nonetheless this title is going to be fun for people who like games where leveling up is the key to victory -- and I happen to be one of them.

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