Release Date: July 7, 2017
Platforms: PC (Version Played), PS4
Little Red Lie is the kind of game where a description of the plot does little to sell the game. The story primarily follows two characters, Sarah and Arthur, with nothing in common and no point of intersection. Instead, the stories are meant to contrast one another, as Sarah is a woman approaching forty with crippling debt, whereas Arthur is a sleazy salesman taking advantage of people like Sarah by instilling them with false hope.
The only commonality between these stories is the central focus of the game: both characters are constantly lying. Sarah is lying to everyone, including herself, about how bad her financial situation has gotten, and Arthur is lying to others in order to manipulate them into giving him more money. Throughout the game, more and more lies are told, to the point where the player has trouble discerning what is reality compared to the fiction these characters have created.
Using two narratives that are completely unrelated except for their habitual lying is a risky storytelling move, but it mostly pays off. The player is taken on an emotional roller coaster from Sarah, generally portrayed as a sympathetic character that just needs a hand that society cannot extend, to Arthur, portrayed as the genuine evil in the world that prevents people like Sarah from ever being able to climb the ladder to success. The game wants to hold a mirror up to society, showing people how debt in the modern world can cause so much anguish, and there were several genuinely emotional moments in my play-through.
Even still, while the characters are strong and the story keeps moving, the game clocks in at about eight hours, which means some parts of the game felt too padded in order to increase the game’s run-time. Additionally, Arthur’s characterization in the game was so evil that it was almost laughable. Sometimes, I just stared at the screen wondering if anyone would actually say that or do that in the real world. For a game that is meant to be a reflection of the real world struggles with money, Arthur felt out of place.
Little Red Lie plays similarly to a point-and-click adventure or walking simulator, in which the player controls Sarah and Arthur by moving them around and interacting with objects. Everything is fully-functional here and I didn’t run into any major performance concerns while playing this game. The main concern here runs hand-in-hand with the story in that the game is too long. As the story begins to lull, the minimalist gameplay starts to grate on the nerves. By the end of the game, I was interacting less with every object on the screen, and instead just trying to get to the next story beat and finish the game.
Ultimately, when I bought this game, the Steam store page led me to believe this game would give me a choice in the lies. I thought this would be a game of deception, where I would be choosing when to lie or tell the truth, and that I would have to keep my lies straight in order to proceed. I just want to clear up for anyone else who may misunderstand the premise of this game that this is absolutely not how Little Red Lie plays. Characters lie entirely of their own volition and there is nothing that the player can do to change those lies. The absence of this additional level of control distances the player from the actions on screen, and probably added to my overall feelings that this game was too long for the content it contained.
The graphics in this game are similar to that of old-school RPGs. Sprites are expressive and the environments are detailed enough that nothing graphically detracts from the game experience. There’s nothing in particular that’s visually stunning by any means, but it’s serviceable and allows the story to move forward.
By far, the most interesting part of the game’s presentation is the use of the color red. Words and phrases are highlighted in red whenever the character is lying. The genius use of this feature is that the player now has to piece together what the lie is. It’s clear that the character isn’t being truthful, but what is the lie concealing? It’s a little detail, but it adds a lot of depth to the game and helps keep players engaged with the story. At the same time, however, this detail contributed to the continued distance between the player and the character’s actions, therefore making it difficult to get immersed in the game’s plot.
The music and sound effects of this game, similarly to the graphics, serves its purpose without making much effort to be memorable or unique. The music swells at key moments and manages to convey emotion, but it’s overall a forgettable soundtrack that blends into the background too often. Given that this is a game with very little gameplay, a stronger soundtrack could have gone a long way to increase the quality of the overall product.
Little Red Lie is a game with the lofty ambitions to start a conversation about the effects of money, or a lack of it, on modern society. The story does manage to be engaging enough that I wanted to see the ending and find out what happened to Sarah and Arthur. Overall, however, the story felt bloated and the game purposefully keeping the characters at a distance from the player broke the sense of immersion that’s key to having a strong takeaway from a game with a political message. It’s a strong enough game that I think it’s worth a try, but keep your expectations in check when playing it.
Personal Enjoyment: 6.5/10
Technical Review: 7.5/10
If you like this review, check out the others that I’ve written. Let me know in the comments if you’ll be picking this one up, or if you’ve played the game before!