f one thing has come out of this year’s political trauma, from British Brexits to American Trumps to Abe’s continued historical revisionism and terrifying nationalism in Japan, it’s that we’re in for some great art. That’s the consensus anyway. If Thatcherism brought us punk and alternative comedy, imagine what we’re in for now the world is completely screwed!

This artistic revolution will take time though. It seems right now, there’s a lot of reactionary material. It’d all be so on the nose as to make one’s eyes roll out of their head, were it not all pulled pretty directly from the headlines.
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So here’s Somi’s Replica, retaining the sinister theme of Retsnom from earlier in the year and giving it a much more chillingly realistic premise. You’re playing someone holed up in a prison cell for alleged crimes against the state. You luckily have a way to get out scot free though; all you have to do is hack into the phone in your cell, and use it to find incriminating evidence on the person next door. A little bit of poking, and you’ll find out faux Twitter and Facebook passwords, and be raking internet search histories to trump up some ludicrous charges. Good ol’ Snoopers Charter, eh?

The interface here is a real appeal; it is, straight up, a phone on your phone, and poking around it definitely unleashes the inner voyeur. If anything, this is where the game comes up shortest; there’s precious little on the phone, at least on the surface. A special snitch’s app lets you tattle on every suspect piece of information simply by tapping key sentences, and you’ll by and large not have to worry about parsing much of this information. The entire focus of this Orwellian piece is that in the eyes of the evil empire, everything is suspicious, and specificity is not particularly required of you to get through an initial playthrough.

Just following orders will only get you one of a dozen or so endings however. To uncover more of the story, you’ll have to do a little more digging, be it rooting through the phone’s GPS settings or deciphering a hidden Morse code. There’s definitely more to the game in successive plays. Even if you want to go through the main storyline goals again, the game will request you to be particular in identifying which totalitarian rules are broken in each perceived offense. Yet nothing ever feels authentic, thanks to the narrow scope of the game. More nonsense social media posts, more idiotic selfies, more anything; it wouldn’t just satisfy that voyeuristic itch, but also make the phone you’re exploring seem more ‘lived in’, more used.

The endings you’re heading toward meanwhile are heavily signposted and cliched for the most part. Yes, you looking at your neighbour’s phone does imply that they’re looking at yours. Yes the evil government will take liberties with every scrap of information to put everyone away. It’s only a couple of the endings that have you dig a little deeper and offer something more than teenage ‘fight the power’ angst.

There’s the rub with Replica. Ripping from the headlines as it does, there’s a lot of room for insightful commentary. Inventive with its interface as it is, there’s room for some real gameplay innovation. Replica doesn’t quite go far enough in either direction, making for something different in feel, and with genuine potential, but that goes wide of the mark somewhat.

KAIJU VERDICT

2/4 Pops: Decent  There might be problems that mount up and prevent it from being a top tier game, or it might not do enough to quite make it stand out, but a 2 can still be an enjoyable experience that the curious should try.

iOS version tested

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