The first mobile phones were huge; like the portable radio stations you found in the old war movies. By the mid-nineties though, they began to get smaller, but technologically more advanced; not only could you ring people but the ability to send messages through texts came about, as did the odd game of Snake. Now, we have phones that hold our whole lives on them; from personal photos and videos, to banking and health records. The little machine in the palm of your hand is an extension of you. So what happens if you find someone else’s phone? Would you be able to uncover their identity? That is what Replica requests, as it plays out like a modern-day mystery thriller.
There are a bunch of other games available on the market that have a similar theme to rifling through a mobile phone to unlock the story of a game. Emily is Away and Simulacra do something very similar, but Replica does feel like it treads its own unique path. You play an unknown individual who has found access to a smartphone – it’s up to you to try and open the phone through its passwords, before the real story begins.
You are working for a government organisation and the point of the game is that you are to hack the phone and prove that the owner is a terrorist involved in an attack; that they are part of a radical institution looking to overthrow everything. That’s the setup of the story and the rest you find yourself by looking through the phone and what it has to offer. There are several endings on offer and each one won’t take you long to complete, but it is the writing and structure which are the best things about Replica, mostly as it does clever things to absorb you into the world.
You won’t find too much here in terms of gameplay – it’s just a case of moving around the phone, selecting things to examine and taking a look at what you find. You’ll want to read everything for clues and then use these clues to find further info in hope of discovering progression. For example, first of all you have to unlock the phone to get access to it and the only thing you can see are some text messages in the notifications. One is from a teacher who hints at it being the owner’s birthday; reference that with today’s date and you might get the password?
When you get into the phone itself you are encouraged to download a couple of new apps. One of these is a TODO app which basically becomes your tasks list for the game. Here you might get things like “find out your name” or “Find out your address”. You can get these details by looking through contacts, and messages, and later on when the requests get more complicated, through photos and reimagined versions of Facebook and Twitter. It’s great fun playing the detective, rooting through the phone’s info to try and get the clues you need to progress.
There are problems with what is being asked though and I think Replica would be simpler to handle should you be playing on PC with a mouse and keyboard. Even better if it would be an iOS/Android game, allowing things to feel very meta. Instead, the controls here on console can get a bit fiddly. The game is quite tricky as well and you will need some luck – and the brains of Einstein – to unlock all the possible endings.
Replica employs a pixel art style in its mobile phone world. All its apps are like the real ones but names and icons have been changed, I guess for legal reasons. I enjoyed the style of the game though, especially visually with this pixel world and the design and concept work which is wonderful throughout.
Replica is a game that will have you intrigued, especially in terms of its concept and writing. The chance to play detective, taking in multiple endings, is a good one, and it’s nice that things feel rather open-ended as you play through, dictated by your motives. The cheap price point comes into play too, so it may well be worth a punt and gamble. At the end of the day though, if hacking into someone else’s phone is your vibe, then Replica might just be the game for you.
Replica is found over at the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Series X|S
- Nice concept
- Pixel art design
- Cheap price
- Will be tricky to find all endings
- Controls could be better
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - PLAYISM
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Switch, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 5 Apr 2022
- Launch price from - £4.49