Games that have you snooping through someone’s personal phone or computer are fairly common.
There’s Emily is Away, Simulacra, A Normal Lost Phone and Cibele to just name a few. But Replica is a little different. You’re not simply free to peruse someone’s personal files at your leisure. You’ve been taken in by a government agency, forced to prove that the owner of the phone was plotting with terrorists. Fail to engage with their demands, and you too could find yourself labelled a terrorist.
It’s heavy stuff then, and Replica rarely gives up the pressure. Tasked with cracking the phone user’s passwords to access various apps, you’ll need to work through a checklist of information provided to you by the government agency. Of course, they’re not pleasant tasks: prove that the phone’s owner was at the site of a terrorist attack. Prove they were part of a radical organisation. Prove that they had extremist beliefs.
It’s a very dark game, and Replica will leave you feeling positively uncomfortable from start to finish. The government agency applying the pressure onto you isn’t your friend – and they don’t care about being fair and just. They simply want to manipulate information to fit their criteria. The fact that the phone user has a photo of himself wearing a Che Guavara t-shirt is enough to implicate anti-government beliefs, for instance. And a photograph with his friends posing nearby the location of a terrorist attack isn’t merely a coincidence – it’s proof of his implication.
You do have an option, though. But it’s not going to go well for you. You can refuse to do as the agency is asking of you. And when the phone rings – a call from the owner’s worried mother as he’s been missing for over a week – you can go against the government’s demands and answer it, letting her know exactly what’s going on. Doing so is going to cut your game very short though. There’s multiple endings to uncover – and doing the right thing might just find you thrown in jail yourself.
Replica isn’t a long game, no matter what ending you get. Sometimes, it’ll be over in a matter of minutes. Other times, you’ll be poking around the phone for up to an hour. But there’s always reason to jump back in, to experiment with other outcomes, to see if you can do what’s ‘right’. Can you? What’s right or not in the world of Replica will have you questioning your own morals. Do you follow your gut and maintain the phone owner’s innocence? Or do you sacrifice them for your own freedom? Whatever you end up doing, chances are the ending you get will leave a bad taste in your mouth.
If this sounds at all familiar, chances are it probably is. Replica isn’t a new game; it first arrived on PC back in July 2016. It’s since been ported to Switch – we wrote about it in 2020 – and now it’s on PlayStation and Xbox. Unfortunately, console is perhaps the worst way to play the game. Using your thumbstick to control a cursor is unwieldy at the best of times. Here, the cursor moves far too quickly, meaning that each movement you make has to be precise and considered. On Switch, you can simply navigate using a touchscreen, and PC of course allows you to use an actual mouse.
Perhaps console isn’t the best place to play, then, but Replica is a game very much worth your time. Costing around the price of a cup of coffee, you’ve got a dark and mysterious experience that will undoubtedly get its claws in you. Snooping around someone’s data is always more alluring than it should be, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat each time you discover a new password, wondering what incriminating evidence awaits. Replica is uncomfortable from start to finish, but if you think you can hack it – figuratively and literally – it’s well worth playing. Just consider grabbing it on Switch or PC instead.
Replica review – GameSpew’s score