Replica begins with a locked phone and a lot of questions. Who are you? Where are you? And why is the government asking for your help? As you begin to find the answers, you come to discover that your own safety may be at risk. Your actions could affect your own future, and that of your country.
The entire game takes place across the cell phone interface. The phone belongs to a suspected terrorist, who you learn more about as you explore his data. You read text messages, view photos, and browse through social media. Your government contact gives you assignments as you play, instructing you to find specific information, which you can tag by using the mouse.
Replica is the type of game where the story comes first. Your mileage will depend on the joy you get from peeling back the story’s layers and uncovering its secrets. There are lots of details to uncover regarding the subject of your investigation as you dig into his life and relationships. The setting is also a major component to the storytelling. Without giving away too much, it provides a hostile atmosphere that brings tensions to the decisions you make.
As a puzzle game, Replica is pretty straightforward. There’s only so much information to examine, and if you’re invested in the story you shouldn’t get stuck for very long while looking for data to tag. At a few points, you need to crack passwords on the phone, and this can be a little bit trickier. You can get pretty far with just a bit of detective work, but not all of the passwords have logical solutions.
At a few key points, you are left to make decisions that affect the outcome of the game. There are multiple endings, and the game must be played repeatedly in order to capture the full breadth of the story. Even so, the first play-through is the best, as your subsequent adventures are often repetitive. You’ll need to go through a lot of the same actions and dialogue and assignments. It would be a stronger game if the story had more branches.
The storytelling has its ups and downs, but the beautiful soundtrack enhances it, as well as every other aspect of the game. The music is peaceful and pleasant, while also haunting and melancholy. It constructs a perfect ambiance for Replica, and the emotions of the songs bleed into the story, leaving a stamp on everything you see and read.
Sadly, after a few hours of playing you’re likely to have seen and read everything. It’s not such a problem that Replica is a short game. It just feels like it should have so much more to say. Beneath the creative interface and intriguing backdrop, I found myself constantly yearning for additional content. I wanted more social media feeds to explore, more apps to install and more messages to read. I wanted a greater grasp of the past, and I wanted further characterization. The puzzles could have been stronger and the writing could have been better. It’s a game that oozes potential but doesn’t always deliver.
In some ways, these shortcomings speak to Replica’s greatest strength. By presenting an intriguing scenario with solid mechanics, it inspires the imagination. Even if it’s just a piece of what you’re looking for, and even if it doesn’t quite fill you up, Replica is a worthwhile game. At $2.99, it’s less expensive than most appetizers, and maybe even a little bit tastier.