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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (497)

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Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5
Katamari Damacy REROLL 4/5
Hitman: Absolution 3.5/5
Alternativa 2.5/5
Stardew Valley 4/5
Undertale 4/5
Cyberpunk 2077 3/5
Fable Anniversary 3/5
Strange Brigade 4/5
Satellite Reign 3/5
Watch Dogs 2 4/5
Divinity: Original Sin 2 4.5/5
Marvel: Ultimate Allian... 3/5
Star Trek: Bridge Crew 3/5
Metro 2033 3.5/5
South Park: The Fractur... 4/5
Sundered 3.5/5
Mass Effect: Andromeda 3.5/5
Life is Strange: Before... 4/5
God of War 4/5
Doom (2016) 3.5/5
Armada 3.5/5
Detroit: Become Human 4/5

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Possessed Phone, Who Dis?    3/5 stars

Developed by Kaigan Games, an indie game studio out of South East Asia, Simulacra is essentially an expansion on their first foray into horror, Sara is Missing. A straight adventure game that takes place entirely via a lost cellphone that comes into "your" hands, Simulacra works but is far from a perfect experience. Yet out of the many, many, many indie game studios trying to butt heads with the big AAA developers, this at least is worth the time and effort to seek out if you want a fun little horror experience (and for greater effect, keep those headphones on and the lights off).

Looks and Stuff: The developers did a good job of creating a decent mock-up of a phone (circa 2017) with the apps and such looking right. They even designed some decent almost-real apps - the Spark dating app is obviously a play on Tinder while Jabbr is an amalgamation of Twitter and Instagram. There is even an over-arching IRIS software with the new Applesauce OS - a mix of both Apple and Android-like features - I especially like the IRIS mission statement: "We're always watching you." There is also generic mail, browsing and standards text/phone features. The other thing that game gets right is the little touches that just suddently pop up - remember, this phone is supposed to be in YOUR possession in YOUR home - and comes across the best wearing headphones. Things like a door knocking or a sudden heavy sigh come out of nowhere and can make you jump just because you're never expecting them. The game features a few jump-scare moments as well.

Now onto what the game is lacking. The game features several FMV and audio recordings - and, bless these young thespians, but they are pretty cringe (is that still the thing, cringe? or is that already too old?). In any case, the performances come across as kind of terrible across the board from overly melodramatic to trying to hard to sound angry to just kind of strange? I get the point this is an indie game studio here but it's still highly annoying for the most part. The other big hit is that while the game has some "gotcha" scary moments, the overall plot is laughably not terrifying at all - I mean, it's the villain in like 80% of all movies set in the future (Terminator, I, Robot, Blade Runner, etc.) but without any of the emotional heft to go with it. At least it tries to do something on the reliance on social media for all aspects of life - but seeing as where we are today, I don't think anyone took the message to heart. Whatever, I never felt emotionally invested enough to really care where the game was going, but it had good moments getting there.

Story: A phone falls into your possession that apparently belongs to a woman named Anna and features a distressing video. After being contacted by a her ex-boyfriend, you realize this video has been erased or at least altered and go about trying to find out what really happened. One-time boyfriend Greg is a bit of a jerk and you are also soon contacted by Taylor, a person she was chatting with over a dating app. You can also choose to keep her best friend in the dark by pretending to be Anna or reveal that Anna is missing - leading to two very different outcomes. As you work to unlock various accounts on Anna's phone, it soon becomes apparent Anna is still posting on some select social media accounts - even though her apartment seems to be vacant and she hasn't shown up for work. After retrieving more information from her home and work computers - as well as receiving mysterious messages from an outside entity - everything seems to point to the dating app, Spark having some kind of connection not only to Anna's disappearance, but several other people as well. When you finally piece everything together, something even more sinister comes into play and the lives of not just Anna may be at stake.

Gameplay: This is essentially an adventures game played via a cellphone that also utilizes some FMV elements. Most interactions come via text messaging - via the phone app or dating app. You are presented with several choices throughout the game on who to trust or not and few very simple puzzles that you can work out by checking email or pictures or other such information and then putting that information to good use. Some texts and pictures are scrambled, but are easily fixed by a rudimentary "put-the-words-in-order" puzzle and very simple jigsaw-like puzzle system for the pics. Mostly you just click around the entire game, sometimes typing actual words, but mostly just interacting with other people via messaging. It's about as simple as things get although getting some of the "good" endings and one hidden achievement requires some specific steps in order to unlock.

Replay value: After beating the game once, you open up game+, which essentially lets you skip through the text dialogue and such at rapid speed, meaning beating the game again to achieve other endings goes much faster. The main reason to play again are for the different endings, some of which do have specific requirements. There are also a handful of achievements that have an either/or choice so at least two playthroughs is recommended to see most of the options.

Final Verdict: It's easy to see why this caught on with the younger crowd when this came out. It would be fun to stream, has enough scares to keep you invested and the whole social media angle is, of course, geared towards those who have been raised on screens for most of their lives. As straight horror, it has a few good moments but they can't save an otherwise wholly mediocre experience for me.

Presentation: 3/5
Story: 3/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Replay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 3/5



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