This review of Simulacra was conducted using a review code given to me by the game’s PR company. This does not affect my judgment of the game and is explained for the purposes of transparency.
Some of you may remember Simulacra doing the rounds a few years back in late 2017. The game initially released on Steam, to a very warm reception. The game received “Overwhelming Positive” reviews, but will the same be the same for the Switch port?
Simulacra advertises itself as “An interactive horror experience of exploring a missing woman’s phone”. The game is played entirely through a phone, which randomly arrives on the character’s doorstep. There are no cutscenes to introduce the game, it immediately starts with the phone rebooting. From here the investigation begins.
You discover the phone belongs to a woman named Anna, and a cryptic video plays showing her crying. The file seems corrupted, with the video glitching out a lot. Anna ends the video saying “Don’t find me”. So naturally, the first thing to do is to set about trying to find Anna. You begin searching her messages, looking through conversations, learning a little about her backstory, before Greg (Anna’s ex-boyfriend) messages you. You inform him of the situation, and everything plays out from here.
In terms of endings, there are three possible endings depending on certain key decisions you make in the game. The way you build relationships with characters in the game, via the responses you give, determine the ending you get. None of the endings finish with a cliffhanger, which is nice. You aren’t left worrying “What about so-and-so?!”, everything is wrapped up well. The story is well-paced and gripping, with many turns I didn’t see coming. I really found myself interested in the story and blasted my way through the first play-through.
Gameplay consists of going through the phone and finding clues as to what happened to Anna. Throughout the investigation, you will encounter certain issues such as not having the password for certain accounts. You must then answer security questions, the answers to which are found in Anna’s texts, emails or pictures. They range from the name of the company she works for, to the name of her cat.
You progress the story, and learn more about the story, by replying to the messages of Anna’s friends. You click the box where you would normally type a message, and clicking one of the responses available. There is no undoing it though, as once you have picked the message that is what sends. I was initially expecting to type messages as responses, but after playing the game through twice I’m glad the answers are pre-generated. The game also features a New Game+ mode for those of you who wish to achieve extra endings. It offers faster message responses so your second or third playthrough is that bit quicker.
In terms of graphics and audio, the game delivers a very convincing experience when it comes to making you feel you are actually on a phone. The game features cutscenes and videos which are all live-action and are nice quality. The quality you would expect from a genuine smartphone, not too high quality. I was expecting high-end cinematic quality FMV content, so this was a nice addition. Audio-wise the game sounds exactly like a smartphone, which adds to the immersion.
Overall, Simulacra provides an immersive experience with a gripping story. Full of twists and turns, as well as some intriguing gameplay it’s a shame that the game’s horror element mainly comes in the form of jumpscares. Given the plot of the game, I feel that the horror element could have been done better, maybe more mysterious and far less jump scares. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a new Switch game and want a unique gameplay experience Simulacra is the game for you.
Simulacra is an interesting game, with unique gameplay and gripping story. I felt for the characters in the game and found myself genuinely interested in helping find Anna. The game is let down slightly by the plot which, while great, does feel a tad lacklustre. The horror element coming primarily from jumpscares as well was rather disappointing. I personally am a fan of atmospheric horror, suspense and unease. However, Simulacra is still a game worthy of playing.