She Sees Red Review by Matt Salmon
A game that feels more like a budget cinematic interactive story rather than a challenger for the next big FMV game.
Every choice matters?
When a game starts with the phrase, every choice matters you expect that the game will have plenty of player choice and make them feel like they are shaping the journey of the protagonist. Unfortunately, going into She Sees Red, you’ll find that there isn’t that much in terms of interactivity and you have little involvement in shaping how the story unfolds.
That’s not to say that this game is a massive disappointment. There are many elements to She Sees Red that intrigued me, and for anyone that is a FMV (Full Motion Video) game fan, this may be a game to look at and add to your Steam library.
She Sees Red looks at the dark underground world of a Russian nightclub with the story taking place within two timelines; one following a young detective who is investigating the murder of a nightclub worker, and the other following the murderer as the action happens, who looks to be getting revenge on the owner of the club.
The story seems pretty simple at the start, with the murder appearing to be an obvious case of who was involved and how it all happened. As things progress it becomes clear that there was more to it than this one-off incident. The story progresses and depending on your choices, comes to one of four different endings.
The runtime is short with a single playthrough taking around 30 minutes (my first play took about 45 mins – ed), but the game highly encourages you to go back and play multiple times so you can unveil the whole story, the aim being to unlock all of the 62 scenes the game has to offer.
Overall the story is actually pretty good; It has some moments in it that shock you, it has some nice twists and turns that I didn’t expect and the setting and tone was executed well.
On top of that the acting (delivered in Russian) was really great and convincing, most of the characters deliver their lines with urgency and no-one really fell flat. There were some clichéd characters within the story, most notably the night club owner and the young detective, who had some lines that felt ripped out of a cheap Bond film, but luckily there were only a few of these moments within the game.
Subs or dubs?
The English dubbing is a bit hit and miss with a lot of characters sounding really off. The nightclub boss for example sounded very wrong compared to what the character looked like and the way he acted. He reminded me of an evil villain from an early 2000s game, it was overly deep and so stereotypical bad guy that for me just took me out of the experience every time he spoke. The other characters are okay sounding but the best experience for me was listening to the dialogue in Russian with English subtitles – it just feels more real. It’s a shame that there are quite a few spelling errors in the subtitles, however it’s the far superior way to play.
The real shining light for this game was the way it was shot. Cinematically this game is beautiful with some fantastic lighting and cinematography. From the offset you really get the feeling that games like this (and Erica) are the future of the FMV genre, pulling together a great cinematic experience along with gameplay.
If this is the standard to expect for the FMV genre then I am excited to see more. It really is great to have these well-shot cinematic worlds come together and be able to be actually involved in the worlds. Long gone are the days of the terrible 90s green screen FMV games where it looked so low budget.
Back to the story which was intriguing and gripped me at times. It was a bit of a shame how short each playthrough was and it left me frustrated by how each ending was always left so open, and even when I’d unlocked all the endings I still felt like I didn’t truly know what had happened. The actors put in some great performances despite the questionable English dubbing and the way the whole game was shot really was at a high professional standard.
Is interactive fiction gaming?
But now comes the gameplay, and this is where the overall experience goes downhill. The ultimate problem with She Sees Red gameplay was that…well there is barely of it. More move the mouse and click on the text box that appears at set times.
This game offers many different choices when playing through the story and each of those choices change the scene and reveal something different. As mentioned earlier, to truly understand everything within this game’s story you will need to go back and play through every single scene, and try something different to unlock new scenes and reveal all the endings.
This is a good idea to make players experiment more in their choices, but the problem is, after one play-through, to sit through some of the same scenes again becomes a bit repetitive, and although it changes later on, watching the same scenes as before again and again just gets a bit old and loses any form of immersion. (You can skip scenes you’ve already seen after the first playthrough – ed)
The lack of choices wouldn’t be that much of an issue if they had a bit more of an impact to them. For example, some of the choices make your character do specific objectives. Right at the beginning, you get the choice between searching the room or leaving straight away, an interesting choice that I wanted to play around with. I went for ‘search the room’, but I wasn’t actually able to search anything myself, that choice is taken straight out of my hands and the character found an item. I didn’t get to look at a specific shelf, it was all scripted and I, the player, didn’t have any say in how or what I searched for.
In another scene I was hiding from a character down the hall. I get the two choices pop up again, one is to continue to hide and the other is to cause a distraction. I chose to do the distraction and as soon as I did, the character did everything for me. I didn’t get to choose how I distracted them or with what, everything was pre-scripted and it just made me feel like I wasn’t fully involved with the shaping of the story.
There was also no real threat or risk to my choices. I never had to worry about my character being caught or losing out on something, every choice I made felt really safe and after a certain point all I needed to do was find the extra scene that I hadn’t seen before, instead of being invested in the outcome.
For a game that states that every choice you make changes the story, I felt like they could have added more choices that made the player think and feel a bit threatening, made choices that put the character in real danger and made the player want to go back and try things differently, as apposed to just choosing the other option in the 50-50 choice.
She Sees Red is an interactive movie. It’s lacking anything that labels it as a game. Some would say that it draws similarities to others within the genre like Late Shift and The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, but for me, those games stand above She Sees Red and give the player choices that make them want to go back and play it again and again uncovering new things.
For me, She Sees Red, became a bit of a chore to get through, especially in the 4th play through. I really wanted to uncover everything the game had to offer, and I did, but I can’t say I was enjoying my gameplay by the final credit roll.
She Sees Red showed a lot of promise in its cinematic execution, the performances are of a really high standard and the overall story was one that I liked in parts. Although I wish that its endings were a bit more clear instead of leaving it completely open all the time.
With a bit more focus on the choice system and a more complex story branch then I would be all for recommending this game. But because of the lack lustre choices and the lack of any real player interactivity, it made going back and playing the game, all the way through again, a chore.
It’s certainly a start from developer Rhinotales, and maybe with a bigger budget they can continue to make these beautiful looking FMV games, but this time, with a bigger focus on how to create a in depth, re-playable story driven game that really makes the player feel like they are making a difference every time they hit play.
2 Night Traps out of 5
Editor’s comment – I’m a big FMV fan and grew up with the likes of Night Trap and Sewer Shark in my 3DO. She Sees Red is a fun little interactive movie, worth the £2.99 asking price, as long as you go in knowing that you’re getting an interactive movie – I played on iOS and it’s a good few pounds cheaper than on Steam. It’s a shame the sound cuts out between each scene rather than flowing seamlessly from one choice to the next, and the English voice acing is pretty terrible. She Sees Red won’t change the course of FMV gaming, but is a fun distraction for a couple of hours.
3 Sewer Sharks out of 5
- Great acting
- A real cinematic looking game
- A pretty good story that had some great moments
- Lack of any real important choices to help player engagement
- Repetitive going back and rewatching scenes over and over again
- Dubbing is questionable at times
- Some minor technical problems in regards to sound during cut scenes
“We decided to make She Sees Red because film is in our blood – and we quickly realized that the current team had the necessary experience and desire to break new ground in both the game and film industries. It’s undeniable that the film industry has had a significant influence on the development of games, while remaining quite conventional in this regard. At Rhinotales, we believe that the reciprocal influence is inevitable as well! We look forward to reading, watching, and listening to the feedback of industry insiders, press, and gamers alike.”
– Artyom Slessarenko (Co-Founder, Rhinotales)
Review codes for She Sees Red were kindly provided by Novy PR