Redshirt
Gameplay 7
Graphics 7
Sound 7

Redshirt is not a game for people that want to jump in and be impressed right away. It takes a while to get used to the interface and what the game expects of you, but once you are hooked it is easy to lose hours. There is a lot of replay value here, but it can feel like a repetitive grind at times. Don’t be fooled by the visuals either as this game requires a lot of strategic planning if you want to survive the perils of being a redshirt.

Gameplay: Keeping track of everything can feel like spinning plates at times.

Graphics: Functional and streamlined.

Sound: Dramatic music and fitting sound effects

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Redshirt

Developer: The Tiniest Shark | Publisher: Positech | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Indie / RPG / Simulation / Strategy | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

In Redshirt your character has the dubious honor of being transferred to the Megalodon-9 space station near the resort planet Venlith. Starting out as a transporter accident cleanup technician which is basically a glorified space janitor, you have to work, smooch, cheat, manipulate or bribe your way into a position of importance. Fail to do so and you along with the 2000 other new recruits will discover firsthand why senior personal appear to be fleeing the station like rats from a sinking ship.

Although I am more of a Star Wars than Star Trek fan, I know what a redshirt is and I am sure most science fiction fans do as well. Redshirts are basically cannon fodder with very short life expectancies and this game is no exception.  While you have 160 days to find a way to distance yourself from the station you more immediate concerns are just surviving. Illness and depression are very common aboard the station and with the ever present danger of being selected for a random away mission, which is usually a death sentence for redshirts, there is a lot to worry about.

The game opens with you having to create a mandatory Spacebook profile for your character. You can select your race and appearance before tweaking factors such as the personality traits of your fellow space citizens. Everything from bigotry to chattiness and vanity can be adjusted and the result is a motley bunch of crew that you have to interact with on Spacebook. Once you have everything set up you are thrown into the deep end with only a few help windows to guide you through the intricacies of Spacebook.

If you have ever used Facebook, (which this game viciously parodies) before you will feel right at home. You can post status updates, invite friends, post on their profiles, host events and send private messages. You only have a limited amount of Spacebook interactions per day and everything you do influences some statistic so it takes careful planning and a bit of luck to make the most of each turn. Due to the randomness of the crew and their personality traits, making friends is not as easy as simply sending out invites to everyone. First, you have to check out what their interests are and match up your own. Taking them out to events that they enjoy or buttering them up with a few private messages also does wonders. After making friends the challenge is to keep them without neglecting their needs or performing social faux pas like flirting with their enemies or excluding them from events.

Of course, time spent with friends is time you are not using to further your career or to make more money. Unless you want to scrape dead co-workers off the teleporter room floor as a permanent profession you need to work on building up your skills. Oh and in case that last sentence has you concerned, Redshirt contains no graphic violence of any kind despite how distasteful some of the jobs may sound. Applying for a hazardous alien waste management supervisor, for example, requires some medical knowledge, people management, tedious paperwork and humorously enough a reassuring voice. These are all skills that can be picked up by going to certain events, but apart from the time wasted doing so they can also detract from other statistics such as your money, health and happiness.

If working your way up the corporate ladder sounds like too much of a chore, you can always check out who the hiring manager for each job is and focus all your charm on them. Once they buckle under the onslaught of your flattering and smooching you can usually get the position despite being woefully under qualified. Mess things up however, and you might find advancing along a certain career track becomes much harder. If you find yourself with some excess credits you might even be able to buy yourself off the station, but whatever route you choose you definitely don’t want to stick around to find out what happens at the end of the ominous 160 day countdown.

While the entire game is played out using the Spacebook interface, there is a surprising amount of stuff going on. All your fellow crew members are not just there to advance your own goals and have personalities of their own. You will see characters feud with each other, attend events, become romantically involved and generally go about their own business. Making friends have definite advantages, but tread on the wrong toes and you might end up with a vengeful ex sending you insults or people refusing to attend events with you because you are pals with their mortal enemy. Don’t get too attached to people either as after a random away mission you might come back with half your friend list lost due to hostile rocks, their future selves or whatever darkly humorous method the game came up with killing everyone. Surviving means extra pay, but obviously seeing everyone bite the dust can result in crippling depression as well.

If you are not careful, it is very easy to get caught in a downward spiral of depression and illness which usually spells doom for your character. Better jobs mean less happiness and those random away missions tend to pop up when you can least afford them. To give you a fighting chance the S.H.O.P is stocked with a variety of items that have stat boosting properties. These only last for a limited amount of time before you have to repair them (at the cost of a new item) and they cost money but have saved my life on numerous playthroughs. The game also gives you random aspirations such as becoming romantically involved with a certain character or mastering a certain job which comes with stat boosts if achieved. Some aspirations can be almost impossible to achieve under certain circumstances, but fortunately you can sacrifice some cash to swap them for something else that might be more attainable.

Redshirt is basically one big juggling act where you try to stay on the good side of everyone and balance work with friendship, fun and education. The Facebook-like interface can be quite confusing at first as everything is done via menus, but after playing a while you’ll find that it is all very streamlined and filled with plenty of shortcuts. With so many things to manage it can be easy to lose track of simple things like eating or paying attention to a particularly needy friend. The game has a surprising amount of interactions such as tagging people in general, flirty or insulting posts or even sending private messages made up of preselected lines that set the tone of the conversation. Since the characters have their own motivations you might find that they are not always available when it is convenient for you to interact with them, meaning you have to change your tactics on the fly to make the most of your time.

The Spacebook interface is nice, but it also means that there is very little to do beyond clicking menu buttons. The game has very little animations and even the away missions are simply a static screen showing crew disappearing one by one to symbolize death. While I realize that it is beyond the reach of the small development team I would have loved to see animations for all the humorous random deaths and maybe “videos” of events being posted by Spacebook friends. Even just photos of these events would have been nice to break from all the number crunching. The strongest point of the game is definitely the humor with plenty of puns or sly references to pop culture and the sci-fi genre. The audio is nicely done with some very fitting tunes and a droning voice announcing important events or interactions. While the game is very polished overall and I experienced no crashes there was one issue where the away mission dialogue box popped up behind the social map making it almost impossible to click a certain button. I also experienced some issues with the Steam achievements not registering, although I expect this is something the developer will address shortly.

Redshirt falls into somewhat of a niche genre and while it shows a lot of heart it doesn’t have the broad appeal of a shooter or platform title. There is no denying that after extended playing the game can get rather repetitive, but this is an issue with the genre in general on not just this game in particular. The various methods of getting off the station are nice, but I found the ending to be rather abrupt which can be a letdown. I enjoyed my time with the game and it is definitely something that I might return to in the future, but it is not a game that I can recommend to everyone. If you like turn based strategy titles, don’t mind sorting through pages of statistics and can enjoy some good tongue in the cheek humor give this game a try. Everyone else might want to wait for a price drop or at least a demo before committing.

*Review originally published November 2013.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 2 gig
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 256 MB
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: any
  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 2 gig
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 256 MB
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: any
  • Processor: 2 gig
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 256 MB
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: any
  • Processor: 2 gig
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 256 MB
  • Hard Drive: 500 MB available space
  • Sound Card: any

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