Abrasive glitchy sounds designed to make you jump and some fairly awful voice acting don't make for the best audio presentation.
Well, it's an FMV game, so it's very realistic. Sequences are solely centred upon Anna and her vlogs, however, so there's not actually much to it.
You wouldn't think that leafing through someone else's fictional phone and all the apps would make for an involving thriller, but it does. Multiple endings make things interesting too.
For a game that almost hinges entirely upon its central performances, its only the actress playing Anna who holds it together. The supporting cast might fall flat, but it doesn't mar the overall experience.
A good list that encourages repeated playthroughs and different approaches each time you have a go at saving Anna. There are plenty of other rewards for discovering secrets too.
December 03, 2019
What would you do if you found someone's phone? Hopefully, you'd do the right thing by handing it in somewhere, and not what the protagonist of FMV adventure Simulacra does. That protagonist is you, by the way, left to your own devices to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of the owner's smartphone. Yes, it sounds like a daft premise, but, somehow, it actually works.
The entirety of Simulacra unfolds via the one-third of your screen taken up by said phone, and as such, it succeeds in being a strangely claustrophobic, focused experience, as you're forced to zone in on the device and unravel events via its various apps – inspired by real-life counterparts like Twitter, Tinder, and such.
A thriller in which you essentially play detective, Simulacra sees you flicking through photos, text messages, videos, Jabbr (the game's version of Twitter) posts, and missing girl Anna's Spark (Tinder) profile for leads as to her whereabouts. While this might sound like about as much fun as scouring your own phone for social media rubbish, it proves unusually compelling.
That's in no small part down to the way in which Simulacra drips feeds you its narrative (such as it is), delivered via text exchanges with Anna's crappy boyfriend Greg and guys she's been chatting with over on Spark. You'll gradually learn more about Anna as you delve further into the content secreted away in her emails and other correspondence, piecing together what exactly transpired prior to her disappearance.
While the game's central performance from Wendy Van Horen Carneiro as Anna is perfectly fine, the voice work from Simulacra's various callers almost puncture the tension completely. They're uniformly bad, unless developer Kaigan Games asked for comedy vocal performances, in which case they're brilliant. For a game that's presumably aiming to ratchet up the atmosphere, Simulacra sabotages itself on multiple occasions, though it does manage the odd jump scare now and again.
Some mild picture based puzzling wherein you reassemble broken photographs or put muddled text messages back in the correct order break things up, but it's deciding what to do next that propels Simulacra. And making savvy decisions too. Choosing responses to texts, you'll develop relationships with a handful of Anna's contacts, some of whom are on your side in trying to find out what's happened to her.
How you interact with them ultimately determines how events pan out, so fostering a sense of trust with some of the game's characters can be helpful later on, while casting aspersions or levelling wrongful accusations their way will only lead to bad blood. As most of the game's characters are cretins, however, your natural instinct may be to call them out on their bullshit. Too right. Greg, especially, is a proper whiny bell-end, and almost impossible to like.
Your unique approach to how you play Simulacra leads to multiple endings, and whether you save Anna or not rests entirely upon your shoulders. You have to wonder why an FMV 'found phone' game like Simulacra took two years to make its console debut, because, in spite of extremely basic and often cheap-looking presentation, alongside laborious text entry, it mostly succeeds as a fairly engaging yarn with an unusual twist.