Replica is an interactive novel from Somi. You may recognise it – it’s been around since 2016 – but it just recently came to Nintendo Switch. Also, I never got a chance to play it on any other platform, so this review is with fresh eyes. Fabulous. Let’s get right to it!
What’s Replica all about, then?
I’m glad you asked! Replica is a game that puts you in the shoes of a political prisoner. You have been handed the phone of another inmate, and told that you must find evidence of criminal activity by hacking into this phone and reporting back to your captors. The whole thing takes place on a phone screen – it’s a little reminiscent of Unfriended or Searching in form if you’ve seen those.
When I say “hacking”, perhaps you’re thinking of Keanu Reeves slamming raw code into a black & green terminal. No, Replica is more like real lifehacking. It’s mainly in the form of guessing passwords – finding birthdays, special dates, significant phases etc. Over the course of the game’s admittedly short story, you’ll learn bits and pieces of the life of the phone’s owner. Read texts, trawl through photo metadata, and scroll through this guy’s social media account. Yes, it feels as weird as it sounds. In a good way, however.
Authoritarian Surveillance State Nightmare Never Read so Awkwardly
Replica feels pretty good. Other than the pixel art aesthetic, it really does replicate (haha) the experience of using a phone. It truly makes you feel a little icky and invasive reading through this dude’s texts from his mum. That said, the writing left an awful lot to be desired. There’s no real subtlety to any of it.
The agent from Homeland Security is less O’Brien from Nineteen Eighty-Four and more Big Bad Government Guy from South Park. Very little in the game is irrelevant or just for flavour. A little disappointing considering Somi is a South Korean developer – just across the border from the most famous surveillance state on the planet.
That may have something to do with the length. You’ll finish Replica in maybe half an hour if you take your time. HowLongToBeat puts a completionist playthrough – all endings – at 3.5 hours, but I think that’s quite generous. Most of that time will be repeating content, too.
The Old Switcheroo
I have to say, I was a little disappointed that Somi didn’t take advantage of the Switch as a platform. There’s no portrait mode – which is weird, as the main play space is explicitly portrait – and you can’t realistically play with touch controls. Touch is an option, it’s unfortunately just implemented very poorly. Also, as a port, it feels rushed, which is sad because this kind of game would be perfect for the Switch’s unique form factor and touchscreen.
All that said, Replica is the price of a pint. It’s pretty unique, standing in the auspicious company of games like Paper’s, Please and Return of the Obra Dinn. If you’re looking for a short game to keep you occupied on a train ride, it’s perfect.
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