Simulacra (PC) REVIEW: A Solid Follow-up To Sara Is Missing
Simulacra is another mysterious mobile game that's worth playing.
Last year, I stumbled upon an interesting game while browsing the Google Play store – it certainly looked like an app, but was classed as a game. I was intrigued. I read the story page but didn’t quite get it, looked at screenshots but was none the wiser. So I installed. Boy, was I thrilled. It’s so rare these days to stumble upon something so radical that I’d never heard of. I liked it so much I reviewed it, despite the fact I don’t really review mobile titles, but SIM – Sara is Missing deserved it.
For those who missed the review, SIM simulates a smartphone operating system of an unknown user. Your job, with assistance from futuristic artificial intelligence IRIS, is to discover who Sara was and what happened to her. Simulacra is the follow up to SIM from developers Kaigan Games OÜ, but does it stand up to such a forward thinking and involving title?
Firstly, I will say that this game should really be played on a smartphone. I had the Steam version to review, and while this didn’t take away from the game experience as such, it certainly hurts your investment in the game. Simulacra has the same basic set-up of SIM: a lost phone and an unseen victim and it’s up to us to discover the truth. From the off, it is obvious that Kaigan Games OÜ have ramped up every aspect of the game. There’s so much more depth to every text, email and picture.
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So our investigation begins. Clues have to be ascertained by combing through the phone, we found a birth date in the pictures, information in the emails and friends (or are they?) in texts. Although, it’s not that simple. Firstly, you can build up a background for Anna from looking through her pictures; some are corrupted due to an attempted system restore gone wrong, so we have to play a guess the order puzzle, six tiles, three have to be pressed in the correct order. It’s fun enough and but not so hard that it’s a distraction.
We learn more about Anna’s job and her future prospects from her emails. It helps to build a background for Anna, and makes her into a more believable person. Also the game slowly retrieves vlogs made by Anna and while they often don’t reveal much that we didn’t already know, they help to turn Anna into a real person. The actress has done a fantastic job bringing the character to life, even if not all the voice acting is up to par in Simulacra, but Anna comes across superbly in the game, and out of everyone it was she that really needed to be.
So we’ve talked about Anna, who else are the key players here? Well, you’ll spend most of your time communicating with two individuals. We have Greg, Anna’s boyfriend (or ex?) communicates you mainly through text message, but then there’s Taylor, Anna’s new guy on the scene who we communicate through a dating app. Greg has cheated on Anna, Taylor is kinda childish at times, but are either of these guys involved in her disappearance?
The game plays well on the concept of you never truly know someone you meet online. We never actually speak to either man, but only communicate via messaging. Both men try and manipulate your opinion of them, and in turn attempt to manipulate your opinion of the other man. It leads to an uneasy feeling of not knowing who to trust and if either man is being honest with you. Anonymity is very much the key theme of Simulacra.
Also, there is a nice reference to the current apathetic attitude towards our information being shared with modern mobile operating systems. During a restore of the phone, we are tasked with setting it back up, and we are asked to complete a number of seemingly pointless and needless questions with only one result being that we are giving over information over about ourselves without the option to retain our anonymity. Just a quick point, the game doesn’t actually take any of your information!
The main thing that makes Simulacra so disturbing is what also makes the game so appealing, the digging through someone else’s smartphone. While smartphones are relatively new to the world, they’ve become a intrinsic part of most of our everyday lives. So when it comes to searching through a stranger’s phone, it becomes akin to walking around their house, seeing their innermost thoughts, feelings and, well, their entire life.
Simulacra is a solid sequel to SIM, which takes what made the free game so great and builds upon it in every way possible.
Code provided for review purposes