App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
She Sees Red reminds me of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch. It’s more a choose-your-own-adventure movie as opposed to a more traditional game. While there are some interesting twists and turns in She Sees Red’s story, there’s so much awkwardness to wade through that I’m not sure it’s worth it.
Murder mystery movie
The majority of your time playing She Sees Red involves just watching what’s happening. "What’s happening" is full motion video scenes involving Russian actors playing out scenes along two different timelines. The first follows someone who has just murdered a security guard at the Paradise Night Club, while the other shows the investiagtion team trying to track them down.
During some of these scenes, you’ll be given a choice, and the results of your choices help shape the story from there on out. She Sees Red’s story can diverge pretty significantly depending on your choices, and the game is intentionally designed to have you play through it several times to piece a coherent narrative together.
There’s a lot of great decisions that went into making She Sees Red. The asynchronous storylines, the small scope of the narrative, and the ways that stories diverge all make for a much more compelling experience than it might otherwise be. In fact, I’m 100% convinced that this game would be completely unremarkable if not for the careful decision-making around the game’s structure.
If a single playthrough of She Sees Red were any longer (each loop seems to be about 30 mins), for example, it would be tough to want to return to it to make different decisions and view alternate scenes. Similarly, the characters in this game are so hollow that dividing their time between scenes keeps the game’s focus on the plot, which does a decent job of leading you through a few different twists that are genuinely surprising on first viewing.
As much as I appreciate the care that went into the design of She Sees Red’s storytelling, the game is full of rough edges just about everywhere else. Most noticeably is the fact that the game’s scenes are all windowboxed, making the view of all the action much smaller than your game screen (playing on an iPad Pro, anyway).
Even if you’re playing on a device where your screen space is better used, She Sees Red still seems to struggle to stitch together scenes smoothly, with moments of jutter between different video clips. Also, upon multiple playthroughs, you unlock the ability to skip scenes you’ve seen before, but you can only see if a scene is skippable by pausing the game. This results in a lot of scene-hunting play sessions where you’re just constantly pausing to check to see if you can skip ahead, which isn’t fun.
If you can put up with all of this, great, but I’ve also been dancing around the fact that all of the acting in She Sees Red feels like people acting like they’re in an anime. Characters all have weird, dramatic flourishes, and there are several moments where certain people make impossible leaps in logic to keep the plot moving forward. There are moments in these performances that are endearing and even effective, but the vast majority of the time it’s somewhere between mediocre and laughably bad. If you are going to sit through all of this, make sure to turn on the Russian audio and subtitles, as it makes things a little more natural than the game’s default English dub.
The bottom line
I like the ideas behind She Sees Red more than the game itself. It cleverly knows what to do to make sure its story remains compelling throughout, but then struggles to execute when it comes to just about everything else. This seems to happen a lot with games that use full motion video, but that doesn’t mean it’s excusable.