Simulacra on Nintendo Switch
Games like Emily Is Away, Her Story, and A Normal Lost Phone, which tell stories through chat logs and video clips on a phone or PC, have become more and more frequent over the last few years and Simulacra is the next.
While, like Her Story, you still need to trawl through files and backups to get clues that help you solve a mystery, Simulacra adds horror to the mix.
A girl named Anna has gone missing and you need to try and find her by looking through her lost phone. Texts, dating app chat logs, emails, search history, photo albums, and social media are all there to be looked through, and each has its own selection of clues.
However, it’s not just making your way through a bank of information. It’s more linear than that. Characters chat with you, joining you as a detective or being an obstacle to your efforts, back ups add more clues, and time changes what you’re looking for.
You’re led through different conversations and apps with smaller aims that work towards the larger goal of finding Anna. You’re still given some freedom though, choosing text replies or tackling tasks in different orders, which impacts which ending you see.
The gameplay is deeper than just selecting options though, which makes it far more engaging than other text adventures. You’ll need to watch videos, unscramble pictures, find hidden messages in the equivalent tweets, and phone people. None of it is even remotely taxing, but the variety keeps everything interesting.
The majority of what you’re doing is talking to a small groups of characters via text and a Tinder equivalent called Spark. There’s Taylor, who is Anna quirky match, her dodgy ex-boyfriend Greg, and some others who pop up every now and again.
The writing is great, making the characters seem believable and developing their personalities with messaging quirks, typos, and a particular way of talking.
That also means you need to quickly work out how to reply to each of them. When you get three or so reply options, they’ll each illicit different reactions, possibly impacting how the conversation goes from there.
Thankfully, the conversations move along at a decent pace. The characters are clearly all from the MSN days, rarely sending a message with more than three words in it, but they come through quickly, ensuring you’re not sat waiting for something to think about or reply to.
That keeps you invested in finding out what has happened. The story isn’t predictable or basic, throwing twists and turns at you, pulling your allegiance between characters, and making your question everything you see and who you can trust.
With the variety so high though, Simulacra has a few issues. The first of which is the length. Unlike other narrative focused games that are all too brief, Kaigan Games’ title is overstuffed.
As you’re chatting to potential suspects and looking through apps in the back half of the story, you’re going round in circles of thought, falling out with and making up with people and being told that your discoveries mean nothing.
While what you’re doing is generally engaging, it can feel like you’re wasting time and it diminishes the impact of the story. The ending drags too, throwing strange messages at you rather than explaining what happened.
It’s only five or six hours long, but I was willing it to end as the mystery began to become clearer. With an hour or so taken out in the middle, I think the story could have been much tighter and impactful.
Simulacra’s video clip and phone call moments are the other issue. While the text conversations are well written, any bit that features actual acting is painful.
It’s not just down to the wooden performances either. What the actors are given to say lets them down and the moments have nowhere near the impact that the more detailed text ones do.
Either mute them, or cringe your way through them, the choice is yours.
The other thing to note is that the Switch is not the best place to play Simulacra. It’s available for mobile devices and, while it seems obvious to say, considering what the game is, that’ll probably feel far more natural.
It’ll likely remove any of the typing and app management awkwardness that comes with the Switch’s control options.
No matter where you’re playing though, the various endings and different ways of interacting with the main characters makes repeat playthroughs appealing.
Revealing the options would only ruin the discovery, but the endings can be dramatically different, with both happy and sad conclusions being possible.
If you’ve enjoyed similar games, Simulacra will be right up your street. Its story is creepy and unpredictable, with the variety in gameplay keeping you engaged, even if it drags towards the end.
- Varied gameplay
- Creepy sound design
- Interesting and unpredictable story
- A little too long
- Terrible voice acting & video segments
- The ending drags
Dec. 3, 2019
Kaigan Games OÜ
Kaigan Games OÜ, Another Indie, Wales Interactive
Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS
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