State Terror, Censorship and Smart Phone Snooping
You’ve been taken prisoner by the state under mysterious circumstances. Homeland Security has graciously given you an opportunity to get your freedom back but at what cost? The only possession you have in your cell is a stranger’s mobile phone. Your captors have informed you that this individual has been connected with anti-governmental assemblies and is now a threat to the state. Your job is to rummage through their personal information collecting enough evidence to convict them of terrorist activities. They will then be prosecuted and subsequently punished. They also occupy the cell next to yours.
Replica is a puzzle mystery game that takes place completely within the screen of a mobile phone. Under the authority of this totalitarian government, you must rummage through the accused’s phone, working out passcodes, reading through texts, and examining their personal photos and social media accounts. When you have discovered an appropriate amount of information, you have been promised freedom and a safe return to your family. If you don’t collect enough info, then you and your family will be classed as dangerous and met with appropriate consequences. The choice to be a state patriot or revolutionary literally rests in your hands.
Straight off the bat, Replica’s story is super intense. Taking place completely within the confines of a smartphone screen places emphasis on just how dangerously significant the mobile phone is in this situation. It’s only through the mobile’s text and calling capabilities that you can contact people; it’s your only window to the outside world.
The calls, texts, pictures and social media apps all piece together to create a picture of this Orwellian world. The game’s main story takes around an hour to complete, but Replica also has eleven alternate endings to discover depending on certain decisions you make. With numerous endings, the process of finding each one becomes a bit repetitive, but finding different paths and scenarios expands upon the story and interesting world.
Regarding the music, the orchestral soundtrack is quite subtle and as nice as it was to listen to, it doesn’t match up to the intensity of the story of Replica. Coupled with the pixel graphics, Replica is minimalist in terms of aesthetic. It creates its meaning purely through the story and puzzle gameplay.
Most of the puzzles in Replica are based around finding information and working out four-digit passcodes. As straightforward as the puzzles are, there is something satisfying about breaking into someone’s social media and personal files without it being too difficult. Although this feeling is accompanied by the thought that the consequences of your actions could lead to the punishment of someone potentially innocent. Some of the puzzles can be a little obscure, and if you do get stuck, there is no story progression until you solve it.
A nice touch is that Replica’s developer, Somi, has scattered little references to certain influences of the game. This includes books, films and video games. The video games are particularly interesting (Papers, Please, Please Don’t Touch Anything and The Stanley Parable) as they all share similar ideas about an individual who is subjected to compliance from a powerful organization or government. The choice to follow or fight that higher power lies within the player.
The world of Replica can be seen as a reflection upon today’s relationships between technology and government, an observation of the idea that if a person wants privacy and goes through precautions to maintain that privacy, then it means that they are paranoid and/or have something to hide. Organizations such as NSA, GCHQ and multi-corporations are pushing to gain more access to our mobile phones, accessing a torrent of personal information which they can use and exploit. Smartphones are lockets of personal information that we willingly grant these organizations access to. Replica can be seen as an exaggerated reflection on the real world issue of technological privacy.