After the success of Sara Is Missing, it was obvious Kaigan Games would continue in the same vein of development. Truth is, before Sara is Missing, there was Finding Home, an indie game also simulating a smartphone experience. Seems the studio's entire direction is surrounded by this peculiar genre, one that connects players into a stylized voyeur adventure never seen before.
In SIMULACRA players gain access to a smartphone belonging to a young woman named Anna. She’s just like any other girl in her early 20’s, working and having a good time with her friends online and offline. All seems perfectly fine, except Anna went missing and she left a strange, bizarre video, as her last registered action.
The overall story is embedded within Anna’s online actions, and each new lead will reveal parts of her past, with phone backups and confessions from her friends. Dialogues are pretty realistic and interesting, making the overall experience more pleasant. There’s no drama, but it’s still somehow intense with a touch of horror and matching jump scares.
Players will explore Anna’s inner secrets and sneak a peek into her life and her problems. Through smartphone apps, such as email, chats, and even the equivalent of Twitter and Tinder, we’ll meet her acquaintances and find clues that may lead to Anna’s whereabouts. While browsing text and pictures, we can restore them by forming a phrase out of loose words, and building an image by restoring little pieces at a time.
Creating connections with other persons of interest through social media is as much part of the story as finding Anna. You’ll have to find clues and discover ways to connect with others, in order to collect new information. SIMULACRA allows you to open up, or, in some cases, keep pretending to be Anna, which may open up new dialogue options and information.
There’s a certain acquired taste when going through someone else’s life, and the game clearly explores that with decency, but still waving a round or two of peculiar situations and encounters. Some internet references and expressions can be found throughout, adding a certain style and characterization of realism into that social media life.
It’s one of those experiences, where you’ll forget you’re in the game. As soon as the clues start rolling down and the story evolving, it’s a fantastic journey. Gathering clues and finding the direction to go was always relatively easy, and I never found myself stuck or without an idea of where to go. The game also contains a section with the current objectives, which will help out in most scenarios if needed.
The visual presentation is accurate and suiting. It’s far more comfortable browsing this virtual phone, then rather use a phone in real life obviously, since the game grants resolutions up to your own. Videos and pictures follow the expected quality and it’s an authentic experience as far as design goes.
Indie games featuring live-action performances with quality are rare. Most of the time the studio goes to an alternative or stylized acting. SIMULACRA though, doesn’t need any of those tricks, and Wendy Van Horen plays Anna surprisingly well. Some may claim it’s an amateurish act, but remember, this is Anna’s life, a young person sharing vlogs about her personal life experiences. Wendy definitely brings the character to life, adding a natural and realistic touch.
SIMULACRA dwells between our presence in the real world, versus our digital personas. I personally think it’s a really good concept and it’s well depicted. It doesn’t become far-fetched, even when dealing with the supernatural. It’s a horror experience, but more towards what social media means to us, and how scary it can become. This is a very entertaining title, and for the simple price of $3,99 it’s impossible to avoid recommending this one.