Simulacra is a horror game that has you investigating a missing person through their cell phone. It’s available on iOS and Android for $4.99.
Simulacra is an immersive experience playing on a mobile phone. The idea is you find a girl's phone (her name is Anna) and you poke around trying to figure out what happened to her. Your phone becomes Anna’s and it was a crazy experience, to say the least. Holding your phone in your hand and seeing someone else on your wallpaper, someone else’s messages, it was truly a haunting experience.
This game creeped me out in two ways. It’s a horror game, so its a little unsettling at times. Playing with headphones you will hear random sounds and breathing that mess with your head and a lot of the messages that you send can have scary undertones. What creeped me out the most was how great the phone looked. What I mean is, here I am, this grown ass man in his 30’s, digging through this young 22 year old woman’s phone. It felt like I was crossing a line. That aspect of it never faded during my time with the game. My first playthrough took roughly four hours, and if anything by the end of my time, I felt even more uneasy going through this girl's phone. How uneasy it made me feel really shows how great the design was.
It first hit me when you look at her pictures. There are not a lot of pictures, but the pictures that are there do a great job of looking like what a 22 year old would have pictures of. There’s random food pictures, pictures with friends and animals; it was just a very well done camera roll. The best part most of the pictures had no impact on the gameplay at all. They were just there to make this phone look and feel real, and it did an outstanding job at that.
The gameplay is different and intriguing. You are interacting with her phone, sending messages to people, and just being a detective with the clues you have. There is a puzzle element to it that I felt was not needed but it was not too offensive. You will have to decrypt different pictures and messages to find out what was there and to keep the story going.
For the pictures, you are given a bunch of cuts of the picture and you have to figure out the right order to select them in to unlock the picture. It was never too difficult, it just felt a little shoehorned in, to make it more of a puzzle game.
The messages were a little more of a time waste than the pictures. You would have to decrypt the message by selecting the words in the correct order to rebuild the message. Some of these were extremely obvious but others took me some time because you had to think about how this person would word their messages.
Like I said earlier, the phone looks incredible and is very immersive. They do however break the immersion by people doing things on their phone that I have never experienced.
Two examples of this start the same: you are texting with someone and then they decide to send an audio message, then go right back to texting. Why the audio message? You have been talking through text, no one is going to say let me take a break from texting to send this audio message and then go right back to texting.
The other thing that breaks the immersion for me is, early on, you get a phone call and you can not speak. This character then texts you, gets the full situation from you so they know they are not calling Anna, but then will randomly call and say things over a 10 second call and then just go right back to texting. There was no need for these extra calls after it was already established you are not talking on the phone.
The story was gripping and takes a lot of turns and it was a fun ride to the end. There are multiple endings, and in my first playthrough, I did not like where my game took me. Playing through again, and getting an ending I was more satisfied with, really changed my whole outlook of the game.
This game has plenty of audio recordings and videos, and for the majority of the voice acting, it's a little cringeworthy. With the exception of Anna, who puts in the best performance, the rest should have stuck to text messaging.
Simulacra was a fun horror game that made me feel uneasy in so many ways. The phone’s interface is done so extremely well that it often made me forget I was on my own phone until I got a phone call or a message. The performances from the supporting cast are not great but it's made up for with excellent writing through text messages. I give this one a thumbs up and recommend it to anyone. This is an experience that is hard to explain and you just need to experience it for yourself.
Final Score —7/10—
For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Google Stadia, Brawl Stars, My Friend Pedro and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six here). As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoonand I’m @Big_Broons.