GAME REVIEW: Replica

written by David Steffen

You are a high school student, and you have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism for being near some kind of terrorist act at the the time that it happened.  Your only chance at freeing yourself is to hack into the smartphone of one of your classmates to gather evidence.  Replica is a puzzle game by Somi published on Steam in July 2016 where you are tasked by Homeland Security to hack into a phone and gather evidence.

Many features of the phone are locked down before its given to you (which given that they haven’t cracked the password yet, is a little inconsistent), and other features appear to be inaccessible with only a point-and-click interface–for instance, there is a Search app but you can only view the search history and search for things in the search history, not freely typing.  You are given a series of tasks to prove that you’re able to figure this information out from text history, call history, phone history, cracking social media apps.  You gather evidence simply by clicking on things that fit the criteria.  One of your first tasks is to find the name of the owner of the phone, so you find that somewhere in the settings and click on it.

The game seemed a lot more wide open and interesting in theory than it ended up being.  The point-and-click-only interface was pretty limited in that you couldn’t even bring up a touch keyboard for the Search app, and other features were locked by Homeland Security.  There just ended up not being a lot of areas to explore in the phone, and so the answers sort of had to be conveniently placed in one of these few small areas.  Not only that, but the owner of the phone is in the habit of deleting everything, so there are only like 5 pictures, only a few short text conversations.  You could get through the game by just clicking on everything you see and it wouldn’t take that long to complete the major tasks because there just aren’t that many options.  I feel like this game could’ve been really extraordinary if it had opened up more of the space and given more area to search through and more things in each area (interesting things to read, so it would have to be interesting content certainly).

Visuals
Grainy, low resolution, if it’s supposed to be smartphone era it would’ve made more sense to up the res.

Challenge
Finding all of the hidden parts in the phone is somewhat of a challenge, but the main throughline of the story you can get through without too much difficulty, or if you’re hardpressed you could just click randomly.

Story
Pretty slight on story.  After the premise, and the tone the game is presented in, it’s pretty clear where it’s going to go.

Session Time
I couldn’t find any way to save the game, so unless you want to start completely from scratch, the session time seems to be however long it takes you to reach an ending, which took me maybe a half hour through the main throughline.

Playability
It seems like it should be more playable, it should be more like a phone interface, with more things to look at.  But most of the programs are locked down by security and the Search program that seems like it should be the most useful is basically useless, because you can only click and there are no keyboard controls on that app.

Replayability
You could get some replayability from trying to reach the different endings, though the 3 endings that I saw were all along my expectations, so I didn’t feel driven to seek out more.

Originality
The premise strikes me as original, and something very timely, but I didn’t think the execution really followed through with that.

Playtime
With no particular skill, I finished 3 endings in less than 2 hours.

Overall
It’s an interesting idea I haven’t seen in another game, but I feel like there might be another out there that’s executed this better.   $3 on Steam.

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David also writes articles here and edits the fiction. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on Twitter for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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