Geek Culture

Geek Review: Erica

Choose-your-own-adventure games, especially those told in Full Motion Video (FMV) style, seems to be on the rise. Couch potatoes relished in living in a unique narrative with the release of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, which made huge waves with its release on Netflix last December, while game developer Sam Barlow’s Telling Lies had players watch videos centred around four individuals, all to uncover one big lie. 

And now we have the latest interactive FMV thriller, Erica, where players control the decisions made by the young Erica as she struggles to make sense of the murders happening around her.

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Indeed, if the game was released before the aforementioned Bandersnatch and Telling Lies, it would have probably garnered a lot more attention than with its quiet release at the recent Gamescom 2019. But that is not to say that the game is not worth playing and it is definitely worth a playthrough as the game is only 90 minutes long, and only makes use of the PlayStation DualShock 4’s touchpad.

The premise of the game is (fairly) simple. You play as orphan Erica (Holly Earl) who has lived most of her life racked with nightmares over the murder of her father. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, Erica is sent back to the institution founded by her father, which also happens to be where she grew up in. Over the course of the game, the mystery of her father’s murder will slowly come to light, along with a series of other conspiracies revolving around the Institute and the many shady characters who walk through its halls. 

As mentioned, you will only be required to use the touchpad on the DualShock 4 for the entirety of the game. Using the touchpad, you will be made to select choices that pop up during conversation which sometimes help to further the plot, or hover over clues to investigate items. This simple mechanic makes it easy for anyone to play, even for those who rarely play games on the PlayStation 4 console. 

Of course, there are times when the use of a touchpad helps to seamlessly transition the game between scenes, such as having to rub on the trackpad left to right, which “rubs away” the scene you are currently watching and reveals the next scene underneath. 

On the flip side, constantly having to do the most trivial of tasks just because the game tells you to can be tiring. Tasks such as lighting a lamp, turning the knob on a door, or just striking a zippo. Basically tasks that have no real effect on the story and just serve to try and keep the player invested in the game. 

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As the game is only 90 minutes long, the replay value of Erica is not exactly very high, unlike its TV counterpart Bandersnatch. Here, each run will have you playing through the whole game from start to finish in order to get a different ending, whereas in Bandersnatch, you can get an ending even without watching through the whole story. Add to that the fact that each playthrough of Erica will be bogged down with tons of menial tasks and the motivation to restart once you’ve finished playing is very low. 

That said, the ambience the game sets is great, both suitably dreamlike and hazy, putting us into the same mindset that Erica is probably in. The game also runs extremely smoothly, with no visible transitions, black screens or any pauses present after a choice is made during a story. It simply carries on, which helps add to the whole cinematic factor of the game. 

It’s (almost) seamless and to be honest, rather calming to play… barring the violent themes explored in the game of course. Holly Earl also does an amazing job as the titular Erica looking suitable doe-eyed and worried throughout the game.

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And while we probably will not be returning to the game more than once, or maybe even twice, we will definitely be more than willing to pull a friend in to watch them play through the game. If for nothing else than to enjoy the game as a short 90 minutes thriller movie.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

An impressive interactive thriller that, while repetitive, still succeeds in bringing FMV games back to a modern audience.

Overall
6.5/10
6.5/10
  • Gameplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Story - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Presentation - 7/10
    7/10
  • Value - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
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