October has finally arrived! At long last we are all free to indulge in all things spooky! Spooky movies, spooky decorations, and of course spooky video games! That’s right, if you’re someone like me who enjoys pixels and jump scares over blood and gore, then there are plenty of games to choose from. However, in my annual search for some digitized fright, I came across something entirely unexpected; an indie horror gem called Simulacra; a terrifying game about solving the mystery of an abandoned cell phone played entirely with a phone entirely on your phone. It’s a cellphone-ception that is delightfully well done.
The core concept of Simulacra is a simple one. The player assumes the role of a nameless, faceless, silent protagonist who, upon randomly having an unknown cell phone delivered to your doorstep, decides to power it up and see if you can return it to its rightful owner. What unfolds is an experience that is equal parts mysterious and terrifying.
This mobile tale of tantalizing terror is delivered to the player via a simulated cell phone interface. Upon starting the game players are greeted with a lock screen that mysteriously unlocks itself with a glitch in an unnerving fashion, revealing a video of a terrified young woman who repeatedly states that her name is Anna and ends with a mysterious “I just wanted to be happy… I didn’t want this to happen”. Afterwards the phone resets itself and boots to a normal looking home screen with Anna’s picture as the wallpaper, confirming that this phone does indeed belong to her. All of this happens within the first few minutes of the game and does a fantastic job of quickly setting the mood for the rest of the game.
Throughout the game you encounter many of Anna’s friends and acquaintances: her boyfriend, Greg, best friend, Ashley, and a flirtatious friend named Taylor, who was getting to know Anna via a Tinder-esque dating app called Spark. As you communicate with them to try and unravel the mystery of Anna’s phone, they all eventually catch on that you’re not actually Anna. Out of concern for their friend they agree to help you find her, each in their own unique ways.
In order to find the truth you’ll engage in many phone related activities such as texting back and forth with Anna’s friends to learn more about them, checking various social media posts, searching the web for potential clues and restoring and decoding corrupted phone data that hides little nuggets that help move the plot along.
All told the game took me about 5-6 hours to complete and by the end of it I was left certainly enthralled. Simulacra’s interface is brilliantly done with all of the apps looking and feeling so much like their real world counterparts that I often got them mixed up with my own apps.
The story’s twists and turns definitely kept me on the edge of my seat (and my phone battery in the single digits) all the way to its dramatic conclusion. Additionally the game has multiple endings depending on the choices you made throughout and how you approached certain
situations with Anna’s friends. Further replays are aided by a new game plus mode that speeds up the animations and makes the whole game a lot easier to breeze through if you already know how you’d like to play it a second time around.
Simulacra was definitely the fresh take on horror games that I never knew I needed. The novelty of the ghost phone was a fun twist that never seemed to wear out its welcome and all of the characters involved felt like real people reacting the best that they can in this scary and confusing scenario. I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone looking for a pocket sized scare that will leave them wanting more.