Anna has gone missing; a young 22 year old woman has gone M.I.A. out of nowhere. All that’s left is the cellphone you found with a mysterious and creepy video featuring Anna’s final few words before the feed is interrupted. It’s up to you to solve the mystery of Anna’s disappearance and hoping that you can find her safe and sound. You won’t be alone as you’ll have to explain things to her current boyfriend, a Spark match named Taylor and her best friend Ashley. Can you gain their trust and save Anna?
Simulacra is an interactive game experience where everything happens through Anna’s phone. One of the first “clues” when obtaining the phone is a creepy, mystic video of Anna crying saying “Don’t find me”. From there starts a hunt to find Anna by looking through the various apps on the phone. You’ll have to figure out how to find clues through her Jabbr, Spark, Vloggr accounts while chatting it up with her current boyfriend, best friend and other acquaintances of Anna in order to find her.
All replies are pre-determined. So basically, when you’re having a conversation with virtual people, you’ll have the choice between 2-4 answers depending on the context. In order to progress through the story, you’ll sometimes come across scrambled text messages and pictures that you’ll to decipher. As far as the text messages go, you get a quick preview of what the message is; you’ll then have to put the words in order to decipher the message. The pictures on the other hand are like a puzzle; and a confusing one at that. You’ll have bits of pixaleted pictures which you need to recompose, but some pieces will have scrambled parts while similar part won’t be. Trying to puzzle those back together can be a headache.
The game has has a bit of an horror feel to it; a bit reminiscent of the horror movie Friend Request; where trying to figure out a mystery online amidst strangers cannot be black or white. Every decision will have an impact in the game’s final moments so you’ll have to be careful about which side you take and who you believe. It becomes a question of who to believe between strangers; which is similar to today’s reality with social media; especially apps like Tinder: talking to a complete stranger.
Unfortunately, there’s some questionable design; almost if the developers never used a cellphone in their lives. You sometimes have to fill out certain text blocks which require information acquired through your investigation. If you happen to forget a tiny detail, you’ll need to back out of whatever you’re doing to find the missing detail; but by backing out, it removes the information that was accurate. Having to retype everything every time is a bit of a pain and a time waster. As far as I know, if you start filling a form on a web browser and you open a different app to get information, the already-filled data remains.
That being said, the game relies heavily on your ability to remember things and how much you pay attention. Certain sequences require you to remember small details that you can easily overlook and forget. While this forces players to pay attention, sometimes you need to access the information to refresh your memory. Problem is there’s a vital sequence which forces you to remember everything because it won’t let you back out. It’s a bit unfair as it pretty much screws up your playthrough if you forget one tiny detail.
Considering the multiple choices in this game, there’s an interesting replay value here. While pictures and videos will remain the same, how you interact with (or ignore) certain characters will have an impact on your story and also ensures that, unless you purposely choose the same answers every time, that no two playthrough will be alike.
Considering this is an interactive movie, the visuals are as real can be. You’re dealing with a mobile device where you chat with people and sometimes are also greeted by audio bits and videos from the victim and others. While chatting with helpers, you’ll sometimes hear creaking and banging, which is kinda of random but very effective to produce jump scares out of nowhere; it’s a great way to induce a few jumps while we’re focused on saving Anna. On the audio side of things, there’s a few spooky tracks here and there (not going into details not to spoil anything) which are very effective in raise the hair on your arms. Unfortunately, not all is well. We’ll sometimes be treated to short videos and audio bits to further along the story and try to help with character “development”, however it all sounds phoned in, even feels sometimes like the actors were trying to act funny during such a tense situation. The only somewhat believable performance is the woman who is doing Anna. The rest of the cast sounds like they are just doing it for the paychecks; Horror movies of the b-movie genres are more believable than the performances here.
Simulacra is definitely a game not to be missed. The game is a twisted take on a missing person case and it creates uneasiness and skepticism throughout. Nothing is black and white and every decision will lead you down a tailored ending. Sure, there’s a few nuisances such as always having to re-type everything and a few times, trying to figure out what to do next can lead to frustration, but the premise and the game’s design make up of it. Don’t sleep on this unique experience.
- Great plot
- Decent replay value
- Cumbersome navigation at times