Ever since I played Her Story back in 2015 I’ve been in love with the FMV genre.
Full-movie video games have got exactly what you crave from a movie or TV programme: the ability to control real-life characters and shape their story. And in the case of Her Story at least, the plot is usually enough to keep you hooked. Being another FMV, I jumped at the chance to play Simulacra, an interactive horror, and while it has some tropes from the genre that I like, I found it lacking in a lot of areas.
What it does well: Simulacra has a very interesting story. When a young girl named Anna leaves her phone on your doorstep, you pick it up to find a disturbing video. Anna tells you not to try and find her and repeats her own name to herself as the phone screeches and the screen goes haywire. By searching through her phone you’re slowly able to piece together what’s going on.
Simulacra’s puzzles are well designed, letting you solve different pieces of corrupted data including text messages and pictures while poking around on Anna’s phone. It’s also rewarding being able to look around on the phone for answers to passwords you may need to unlock Anna’s email or social media.
Unfortunately, the bad overshadows the good for more of Simulacra. The voice acting for Anna’s boyfriend, Greg, was enough to make me want to immediately turn the game off. (Think Steve from Resident Evil: Code Veronica.) The acting is bad, but his voice is so high pitched I just wanted to hug him and say, “It’s time for your nap, little guy.” Although “Greg, please stop calling Anna’s phone, I’m trying to break into her email,” would have been much more apt.
The difficulty of the game — or lack thereof — lets it down somewhat too. It babies you a little too much by giving far too many hints on how to solve each puzzle. For example, when I was looking for a way into Anna’s email, the password hint was “toby’s birthday”. By looking through her phone, I’d have been able to find the answer myself, but before I was got the chance a text arrived, telling me exactly where to find the answer.
Needless to say, I wasn’t totally impressed by Simulacra — but I did enjoy some moments with the game, mostly during the times when the phone screen would flicker and something creepy would happen. If you’re a fan of FMVs give it shot, but just don’t go in expecting too much from it.