Redshirt is a brilliantly addictive and hilariously written social networking simulator set on a Star Trek- esque star ship. You’re dropped into day one as a lowly Redshirt  bottom of both the social and career ladders. You’re tasked with making friends, improving your work prospects and preparing for a mysterious countdown to reach zero, all via interactions over social media. It’s funny, it’s easy to jump into and, for the most part, it’s awesome.

One of the most important aspects of parodying an existing social network is that your version has to be instantly familiar to players. Redshirt’s version of Facebook, titled Spacebook, completely excels in this regard. You can like and post your own statuses, see other users’ interests and mutual friends, send private messages and even comment on each other’s walls. As well as replicating features, several social etiquette rules are also observed. People look down on you if you like your own status, un-liking a status also upsets players. If users see you went somewhere without them they will get jealous and they may un-friend you from time to time if you don’t keep them happy. It all came really naturally to me and made a lot of sense, meaning it should be pretty easy to get non-gamers intrigued at least in this aspect of the game. Just tell them it’s like Facebook.

It's really easy to make a lot of enemies while climbing the career ladder.

It’s really easy to make a lot of enemies while climbing the career ladder.

 

There are however some issues with this social media interface. All private messages between players are created using a series of 4 drop down menus, each offering a couple of choices. These make replying to these characters feel formulaic and super vague. This definitely distracted me from the polish of the experience. Also, some characters will behave incredibly strangely and unpredictably which also lessened my immersion. One particular randomly generated character kept adding me as a friend, sending me incredibly angry and aggressive messages, then trying to invite me to social events, before un-friending me. It was a really weird experience and I wasted time trying to understand her rather than focusing on the characters who were important to me. This wasn’t a common occurrence, but it was certainly a little distracting.

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Redshirt’s writing is by far the highlight of the game. From the amusing and pun filled status updates and menus, to the whole host of amusing Sci-Fi references dotted inside any chunk of text, the writing is hilarious and kept me engaged for the whole of multiple playthroughs. I easily played the game for over 10 hours over a couple of playthroughs and never got bored of the jokes the game had up its sleeve.

Let’s talk a little about the game’s character diversity. Redshirt allows players to chose their base character model from a series of species based on various sci-fi tropes and some just based on amusing thematic concepts. the game then allows you to fully characterise the visual look of your character and, in my mind much more interestingly, customise their gender and sexuality. Sexuality is handled a series of three options; Interested in Men, Interested in Women and Interested in All. It doesn’t lock players into defining themselves as either gay, lesbian, straight or bi and doesn’t lock out players who identify as other queer groups such as those who identify as pansexual. It also works really nicely with the games solution for gender selection, which is a gender slider. By not assuming that people fit one extreme or the other, it doesn’t label your romantic interests based on you or their gender preferences. There is also the option to set your gender as private, which is nice as gender is really nobodies business. It’s not a perfect system, gender presentation is still locked to a pair of binary character models that switch when you cross a line in the centre of the slider, but it’s still a really nice set of steps forward for character creation, particularly for a game that puts such emphasis on social interactions with NPCs. I wholeheartedly support any game that offers an attempt at a non binary gender selection and allows for really interesting character types to play as, including my favourite which is a member of an all female race who identifies male.

Built into the game is a nice set of tools to export profile pics or take screenshots.

Built into the game is a nice set of tools to export profile pics or take screenshots.

 

Shortly into the game the main story gets introduced as the catalyst for your actions going forward. You recieve a mysterious FB message suggesting that in 160 days, you’ll wan’t to be off the ship because something very bad is coming your way. The main way to achieve this is by climbing the career ladder and rising the ranks in the hopes that you’ll survive what’s to come. It certainly gives you something to work towards once you have a couple of friendships built up and encourages you to vary the activities you do and friends you make, but it is in itself a slightly flawed system. The main things holding you back from career progression are keeping your happiness and health up, as well as making friends. Interestingly, the easiest way to progress your career seems to be to ignore those things entirely, flirt with the boss of every job then meet a single base requirement for the job. After my first romantic interest died on an away mission, along with my best friend in the same away mission, I quickly realised with nobody left I may as well just keep romancing and using NPCs to worm my way to the top. It felt somewhat against the spirit of the game, but it was the most effective path to the top and appeared to have very few drawbacks. There are other paths to victory which appear throughout the game, but these feel like a cheap cop out in many ways.

The only parts of the game that really disappointed me were the ending and the Aspiration system. The first time I completed the game I elected to use an item I’d had for a few in game days and went straight to a static image and a single line of dialogue saying I won. Nothing  but a pretty bland “you did it, the game’s over so go now” style screen. I felt a little more satisfied by end ending I got by climbing the ladder to the top of the jobs on the ship, but ultimately the game ends in a way that left me feeling like I had just witnessed a pretty huge anticlimax. It wasn’t the sense of accomplishment I’d hoped for, which is a shame as it lowered my overall enjoyment of what was otherwise a deeply enjoyable and very engaging game. There’s also a series of things that your character is challenged to do as Aspirations, but there doesn’t seem to be any reward for doing these which was a bit disappointing.

Wrap Up

Redshirt was a hugely enjoyable experience and one I will highly recommend for Star Trek and Sci-Fi geeks, but this recommendation comes with a warning. While the 5 hour playthrough time was really enjoyable, the ending doesn’t do the rest of the game justice. Go in expecting the ending to be mediocre and enjoy the wonderful journey that gets you there.

score of 8

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About The Author

Content Editor

Laura’s gaming journey began in the 90′s when she was given a SNES by her older brother with Mario paint. From that day video games were all she thought about day or night, be it playing them, designing them, discussing them or writing about them. Why does she want to write about indie games? Because indie devs are awesome and she wants to be their new best friend by telling them how terrible their games are. That’s how it works right? Twitter: @LauraKBuzz Email: Laurak@indiehaven.com