App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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There's always something a bit uncomfortable about games that present themselves as fake phones for you to snoop through, but few rise to the levels of discomfort that SIMULACRA does. This adventure game has you investigating the disappearance of a woman while unveiling a story and experiencing things that are truly unnerving. It's a kind of game that certainly isn't for everyone, but SIMULACRA is no doubt one of the creepiest and inventive adventure games out on the App Store.
Anna is missing
SIMULACRA was developed by Kaigan Games, and it feels very much like a follow up to one of their earlier releases, Sara is Missing. In this game, you find yourself in possession of a phone belonging to a woman named Anna, and you quickly learn by snooping through it that something has happened to her.
Throughout your experience in SIMULACRA, you find yourself not only going through Anna's text messages and emails, but also her social media profiles, dating apps, vlogs, and more. The level of detail here is astounding and makes for a game experience that is both intimate and unnerving. It's just plain weird to be watching video of a real person portraying Anna in some of her most vulnerable moments, but it's also a fascinating and extremely effective way for SIMULACRA to tell its story.
In SIMULACRA, your main objective is to find out why you have this phone and what happened to Anna, but it becomes clear over the course of the story that figuring this out isn't as straightforward as it seems. Over the course of the game, you'll exchange texts with all sorts of people from Anna's life, restore remote backups, and compete in social media contests, all while also dealing with some creepy and cryptic issues with Anna's phone.
These issues generally revolve around Anna's phone glitches out in weird and sudden ways that are startling and add a dimension of uneasiness as you play. They also add some puzzle elements to the game, where you need to restore bits of corrupted data by reordering parts of photos and text messages that get garbled. These moments in the game may take a little bit of the realism out of SIMULACRA, but they do a lot to ratchet up the tension and make you question your actions while playing.
The level of unease that SIMULACRA creates makes for a pretty uncomfortable game. Not only are you looking through some deeply personal stuff, but really strange and scary things happen while playing. This makes it a game that probably won't appeal to everyone's tastes, but it does make for a game that feels unforgettable and unique.
The only real drawback to the game is that there are times where you feel like you can't control conversations the way you want to, resulting in some bizarre decision-making from characters in the game. This railroading is at its worst by the game's end, which is understandable, but it still takes away from what is otherwise a pretty incredible experience.
The bottom line
SIMULACRA takes the “phone voyeurism game” genre to the next level in ways that are downright creepy in more ways than one. It may not be for everyone, and it can occasionally feel awkward, but SIMULACRA is an uncomfortable experience worth having.