Developed by Kaigan Games, Simulacra offers a unique spin on horror gaming. The title focuses more on narrative as the user takes on the role of detective, looking to decipher each clue as they surface. Be forewarned – you will not find any scenarios where you see violence, bloodlust, or experience jump scares. Instead, you utilize puzzles and hidden easter eggs in each interaction to arrive at an answer.
Simulacra is centred around a missing girl named Anna. You find her lost phone and are prompted to watch an ominous video that is evocative of something being amiss. Through investigating her numerous relationships, you are better informed about who Anna was as a person. You get in contact with her boyfriend, her friends, and potential new flame in the game’s version of a Tinder-esque dating app. You dig through her phone’s applications to see what she had been up to and to unlock certain clues in each application. I liked being able to access corrupted photos after playing puzzle mini-games that reveal crucial pieces of information, or passcodes to get into other applications. You begin to feel like an expert when it comes to excavating information from people for your benefit. Kinda odd, but it proves to be a useful skill that is further developed as you progress.
I enjoyed how realistic the apps in Anna’s phone were, though I did find it odd that the interface for the entirety of the game was solely her phone. I don’t think the user experience is fitting for a game console, it just seemed to be more fitting for mobile (this title does exist in mobile app stores, by the way). Solving puzzles and following the leads you get from her friends and significant other is the breadth of this game, and after a while, I did get bored. As you would expect, your playthrough changes based on the decisions you make, but I have not experienced the urge to want to replay the game.
At the end of the day, Simulacra is innovative in its approach to the horror genre. This is where its strengths lie – it is both mysterious and disruptive to any assumptions one would have as the story continues on. That being said, I feel this game would probably be executed better as a mobile game. On the Switch, there is not enough real estate being used on-screen. If the focal point of the game is the on-screen interactions on a phone, the game should operate on devices that emulate the same experience (in my humble opinion, of course). Simulacra was released on December 3rd and is available on the Nintendo eShop for $14.85 CDN.