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Buddy Simulator 1984 Review


Making friends in 2023 is difficult, what with the social anxieties of coming out of lockdown, and the increasingly isolated existence that we’re all experiencing. But spare a thought for an AI living in a video game from 1984. That must be a lonely experience. If we find it hard making friends, it’s got to be harder when you’re effectively HAL. 

Buddy Simulator 1984 is the second game we’re reviewed in the space of a month – alongside Inscryption – where we feel like we’re ruining the experience by talking about it. Much like describing the workings of a magic trick before you see it, reviewing Buddy Simulator 1984 can be a demystifying experience. And much like our review of Inscryption, the best solution to the problem is to say sod it, stop reading and buy it. You won’t regret it, buddy.

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Buddy Simulator 1984 intro

Woo-wee, how do we go about describing Buddy Simulator 1984, knowing what we’ve just told you? Well, it wouldn’t be ruining too much to say that it’s got a pretty loose notion of genre. That’s genre in the sense of gameplay, as Buddy Simulator 1984 is something of a chimera, tossing away gameplay ideas as quickly as it acquires them. But it’s also genre-loose in terms of story, as its heading changes frequently. You might think that you’re in an AI-gone-wrong horror, but the story whips about in so many directions that you start questioning yourself. Is this science-fiction? A warm story of friendship? It’s never clear.

At its core, Buddy Simulator 1984 is about love, and what we might build for the people we love. It’s about the moment after you’ve handed over a gift, when you study the face for a reaction. It’s that confused moment when the gift could be received with the warmth that it was intended, or it could go somewhere far darker. 

Buddy Simulator 1984 is that gift. It’s a game created by an AI, simply for you to enjoy. The AI does the robotic-equivalent of studying your face, hoping you like it, adapting the game based on your reactions. And looming above the whole experience is the thought: what happens to you if you don’t like what the AI has made for you? 

This game-gift keeps developing and changing. In some ways, the game charts the development of narrative games and RPGs through the ages, as the AI learns to make better structures that match the chronology of video game history. You could see Buddy Simulator 1984 through that lens; it’s a developing museum artefact. 

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Buddy Simulator 1984 xbox screenshot

What makes us love Buddy Simulator 1984 so deeply is that, through all these changes, all of these software updates, the subjects of the game don’t change. The locations, and their orientation to each other, don’t change. You will build a mental map of your home, the neighbouring town and more, even though the game genre and fidelity changes around you, the people remember you and react in the same way, completely oblivious to what’s going on. And the gameplay mechanics deepen, meaning that your relationship with a character may remain the same, but the relationship means more as the game goes on. 

This review is becoming a riddle, we appreciate. We have to be astonishingly careful of what constitutes a spoiler. We may have gone too far already. 

If you want to know more about how Buddy Simulator 1984 plays, the answer is ‘in a lot of ways’, but again that doesn’t help. The largest proportion of it is Earthbound-like. You are a prospective hero within a community, and you can perform quests for that community. They’re not much more than fetch quests, but by completing them the neighbourhood flourishes and more quest opportunities appear. That’s the general outline of what Buddy Simulator 1984 has to offer. 

And of course, through the game, you have the AI in your ear. This is the game they made for you, buddy, so you have that layer of interaction too. What are their motives? Are they benevolent or malevolent? Are you stuck here? Some of these get answered over the course of a game that is impossibly hard to predict until, joyfully, you just stop bothering and enjoy the trip. 

It’s not perfect, by any means. It’s so ambitious and determined to take its chances that some things simply don’t come off. We found a dip into JRPGs to be mostly duff, and it has a love for manual inputs – particularly with a keyboard – that just don’t feel satisfying with a controller in the hand. We suspect that’s half of the point, but we got that joke early on – we kind of hoped that the punchline wouldn’t repeat so often afterwards. 

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Buddy Simulator xbox fishing screenshot

But even when Buddy Simulator 1984 misses, you can see the target it was aiming for, admiring the sheer bravado of someone aiming for it. Because there is no game that Buddy Simulator 1984 feels akin to, save for – perhaps – the genre-shapeshifters of Inscryption and Undertale. Even then, their ambitions are in other directions. 

Buddy Simulator 1984 is about the buddies you make along the way, and we’d be remiss not to mention the characters that inhabit its world. If there’s anything that Buddy Simulator 1984 gets relentlessly, unfailingly right, it’s in creating characters that offer a small window into their lives, but that glimpse is so enthralling that you want to pull the window wider. We loved the characters in Buddy Simulator 1984, and they’re made even more essential by the knowledge that the AI created them. What was it trying to say when it made them? What’s the message that comes with them? That inflection is gold. 

Have we convinced you to play it yet? Buddy Simulator 1984 is a bolt from the blue, a killer game that comes from nowhere to shoot you between the eyes. We can’t stop thinking about it, yet we’re cursed not to talk about it here, or to anyone else in fact, as it would utterly ruin the experience of playing it. So, take a chance, friend, and download Buddy Simulator 1984. We promise that it doesn’t come with AI malware included. Promise.


  • A mystery box that absolutely dazzles
  • Superb writing
  • Memorable characters
  • So many rug pulls that you’ll get dizzy
  • Some interactions and inputs are painful
  • A soggy midsection that we disliked
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Feardemic
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
  • Release date and price - 6 April 2023 | £8.39
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>A mystery box that absolutely dazzles</li> <li>Superb writing</li> <li>Memorable characters</li> <li>So many rug pulls that you’ll get dizzy</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Some interactions and inputs are painful</li> <li>A soggy midsection that we disliked</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Feardemic</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch <li>Release date and price - 6 April 2023 | £8.39</li> </ul>Buddy Simulator 1984 Review
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