Posted: By Jon Peddie 01.24.20
Maya, an upcoming influencer has been found dead, and an obsessed detective suspects foul play. Her phone appears to be intentionally wiped, and her cause of death seems… unnatural.
You are given her phone to conduct an unsanctioned police investigation, and piece together the mystery surrounding her death. Solve the case before whatever happened to Maya… happens again.
And so the adventure begins.
Simulacra 2 is literally a video game. It has video vignettes married to a dialog box of multiple-choice questions. It’s part of the Simulacra series of “lost phone” mysteries, which were first introduced in 2017.
If you remember Adventure (AKA ADVENT, Colossal Cave), you will recognize the dialog concept of Simulacra 2. Adventure, on a Commodore PET, or Radio Shack TRS 80, with its monochromatic green 7 × 9 alphanumeric dot-matrix text, was a dialog game. You were given a situation or task, and you typed in your move or answer:
|YOU ARE STANDING AT THE END OF A ROAD BEFORE A SMALL BRICK BUILDING.AROUND YOU ARE IN A FOREST. A SMALL STREAM FLOWS OUT OF THE BUILDING AND DOWN A GULLY.
YOU ARE IN A VALLEY IN THE FOREST BESIDE A STREAM TUMBLING ALONG A ROCKY BED.
YOU FELL INTO A PIT AND BROKE EVERY BONE IN YOUR BODY!
NOW YOU'VE REALLY DONE IT! I'M OUT OF ORANGE SMOKE! YOU DON'T EXPECT ME TO DO A DECENT REINCARNATION WITHOUT ANY ORANGE SMOKE, DO YOU?
Player's commands in lower case, and the program's reply is in all-capitals.The program's replies were typically in a humorous, conversational tone, much as a dungeon master would use in leading players in a tabletop role-playing game.
Simulacra 2 is similar, only classier with videos. The videos update the theme, but they also have a charming retro feel. This game feels like a rediscovered old favorite.
You watch an opening video of the chief telling you he needs your help to find out what really happened to Maya. He gives you her phone. There are videos on her phone.
|Detective Murilo wants you to investigate a missing girl|
And then the dialog begins.
You typically get three choices of answers and until you pick the right one you keep having a discussion with Murilo. When you get the right one, you’re told to go look at a video that Maya made.
|Maya is in serious trouble|
And so it goes. You are given clues, you have a discussion with someone, and use various hints to unlock “corrupted” files on Maya’s phone.
The videos and general graphics are pretty high quality. The videos are fun, and there are multiple paths through the story-driven by the answers you pick.
The game encompasses a more complex non-linear narrative, an expanded live ensemble cast, and an original soundtrack. Aside from offering an unnerving atmosphere of horror, Simulacra 2 also explores the world of social media and the effects of living your life in the public eye.
There is a nice self-reflexive component to the Simulacra series. Enthusiasts are making videos and play-logs. For example, well-known, and inexplicably popular jacksepticeye has made an hour-long video play by play.
The Simulacra series is available now on OS, Android, and PC (Steam) for $4.99.
What do we think?
Overall, it’s an impressive and inventive piece of work. It’s got its raw edges. It’s difficult to find the mouse pointer in the opening screen because of the video noise which is used for effect, and in fact the video noise gets pretty tiresome.
The game is perfect for phones and killing time, but to play the game in public you’ll need earphones. It’s pretty lightweight which means you can play it for hours on a single charge. Whether you will actually do that or not depends on your tolerance for the back and forth dialog, which gets tedious. Most players will probably interact with it for short periods.