Posts Tagged ‘Cell Phone’

Simulacra 1 and 2

September 28, 2020

Since we are getting closer to Halloween in a few days and because my friend prompted the memory, it is time to talk about a pair of horror video games. I do not usually play a ton of horror games despite being a huge fan of Halloween and the Horror genre in general. The gameplay of most horror games does not really interest me. You spend the game in a mostly helpless state and usually feel kind of unfair. I watch playthroughs online of horror games for the story (and to watch people flinch) but I rarely play them myself. I did get back into Minecraft lately which is spooky and definitely has jump scares. I have also played other games with horror elements like Gone Home and a Night in the Woods which are spooky but harmless.

Anyway, I came here to talk about the Simulacra games because spooky AI is a really great plot device to consider. I could talk about HAL 9000 or Skynet but instead, I will talk about the Simulacra games. There will definitely be spoilers for both games here but a lot of the fun of the games is the journey and they are still worth playing.

The first game was an absolute revelation for me. I had seen some of the gameplay online and was able to pick it up for cheap on GOG.com. (#notsponsored) The premise of the game is that you have mysteriously come to possess the cell phone of Anna. Anna is missing and you decide to try to find her. All you have to go on, in the beginning, is a horrifying video of Anna crying and breaking down before she disappears and nothing she says makes sense. You start to text with her best friend Ashley, her ex-boyfriend Greg, and Taylor who is a guy she was talking to on a dating app to see what they know. Using their help, you are able to restore data on the phone from backups to unravel the mystery. In the end, you figure out that Anna was kidnapped by a strange clairvoyant guy on the dating app named James.

It turns out that James is a self-aware AI being that is extremely predatory. It dwells within a dating app called Spark (and basically is Spark more or less). Throughout the game, you discover news articles about the disappearances of its victims. You use the information to lure out the Spark simulacra. When you find Anna, she has already been possessed by Spark. Spark taunts you and explains that it is one of many. It searches the Internet for the unfulfilled and the desperate and then possesses them. It then assimilates their consciousness into its own (making them “stronger”) and then destroys their physical bodies. You then have to bargain for either Anna or Taylor’s release.

The second game follows the events of the first game with a Detective Murillo (a very minor character from the first game) investigating the mysterious death of a young woman. He gives you Maya’s phone and asks you to use a new program to restore data and find clues. Maya died of a heart attack but it was sudden and she was found with strange lacerations on her face. As you explore her phone, you find that she is an health guru influencer who joined a collective with Rex (Finance influencer), Arya (Beauty influencer), and Mina (Musician). You must investigate all three of them to figure out their role in Maya’s death. You also have to navigate the world of online influencers, a world that is mostly illusory. That alone is creepy.

Surprise! The culprit is another simulacrum, this time the Kimera simulacra. It specifically preys on influencers because they are desperate for fans and obsessed with numbers both for their livelihood and validation. Influencers opt in to a follower boosting program which is actually the Kimera. If they screw up and their numbers start to plummet, the Kimera offers to fix everything in exchange for a personal sacrifice. That sacrifice ended up being Maya. You must figure out which of Maya’s friends took the Kimera deal and sacrificed Maya’s life. Then you must deal with Kimera itself.

Both games are super interesting in that they both involve a lot of existential dread and psychological horror but few actual jump scares. The few jump scares come from dealing with the ghosts of Anna and Maya who distort images on the phone sometimes. You interact with other characters mostly through texting but you also receive video and audio files. In that way, it reminds me a lot of the old FMV games in the best way. The first game does not have a whole lot of video but the second game is predictably chock full of it since you are dealing with an Instagram knockoff. Both games are not that long but have multiple endings as you go through different investigatory paths. Neither are much longer than a few hours at most.


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