Redshirt is a fun social network sci-fi spoof game.
By now you’ll be well aware of my feelings on sci-fi tropes being effectively used to generate humour – when it’s done well like in Red Dwarf and when not, as in a similarly-titled book I read a while back. As science fiction gets its message across best when there are questions of morality and the true value of individuality being raised, coupling it with the transient nature of social networking done through Twitter and Facebook in order to get ahead is an interesting take that indie developer and BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Mitu Khandaker of The Tiniest Shark has explored in their (her) PC game Redshirt.
You begin the game as a lowly Transporter Accident Cleanup Technician assigned to space station Megalodon-9, right at the bottom rung of the career ladder, Rank Zero. To obtain the privileged position that is Commander’s Assistant (Rank 7) you must learn the skills and develop the interests that will see you climb to the upper echelons, obtaining the trust and friendship of those around you as well as the superiors you need to impress by taking on a series of more authoritative jobs (the responsibilities of which are entailed in their humorous titles – the thought of being a Turbo Lift Concierge makes me chuckle!)
The game is played out through social networking site Spacebook (see what they did there?) which helps you keep tabs on your fellow station employees, their interests and love lives, and job satisfaction. Use your daily allowance of Action Points to send and receive private messages, write on others’ Walls, and take part in Events – eating in restaurants, hanging out in your quarters or using the Virtuo-Augmento suites to simulate shows, training courses and romantic getaways. The trick is, using the limited Action Points you have, to keep everyone happy and nobody feeling jealous or left out. Whether you’re a team player or just someone determined to get to the top – by any means necessary, romantic or otherwise – the fun is in the daily interaction and trying to stay well-adjusted enough to get that promotion.
However, time is also a key issue, as is the random threat of an Away Team Mission which, as all good Redshirts know could spell certain doom. In 160 days an unspecified threat will lead to the destruction of Megalodon-9, meaning that you need to get a Shuttle Ticket to avoid an explode-y demise. The compulsory missions will also have a major effect on your self-esteem – not to mention the lives of some of your unfortunate colleagues – which could prove difficult in overcoming as it has a bearing on your attitude to work.
I’ve enjoyed playing through Redshirt a good few times – there are several different ways to get that ticket and it’s been a lot of fun playing around to meet the goal. However, the game format of playing through Spacebook has its limitations as it isn’t very hands-on, and as such it’s difficult to be fully invested in succeeding in your mission. The behaviour of the NPCs aboard the station is also fairly erratic and hard to pin down from time to time, which makes trying to become more popular very difficult and almost entirely arbitrary. You may not find it satisfies for replayability if you don’t experiment with the personality settings before each game; a Bigoted co-worker is less likely to accept a job application if you’re got six eyes and are from the planet XxThrxX (pronounced ‘Trevor’) thus making your ultimate task a little more difficult to achieve.
Nonetheless, I recommend Redshirt if you’re looking for a fun sci-fi spoof that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ll be very interested to see what Ms Khandaker is working on next; based on this effort I’m looking forward to The Tiniest Shark’s future work.