Publisher: SIEE | Developer: Flavourworks | Release Date: 8/19/2019 | Genre: Interactive Drama | Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
Review copy was not provided by publisher/developer. Game was purchased at retail.
If you have had any interest in Erica since It was first shown at Paris Games Week 2017, you would be forgiven for thinking this was an entirely different game. The actress that was shown in the original trailer has been replaced with Holly Earl (Dr. Who, Humans) so if you’re confused, yes this is the same game that we saw at PGW 17. If you had no idea that a game called Erica was even a thing before landing on this page, let me catch you up on things real quick. Erica is an FMV (full motion video) game that uses a live-action video format instead of traditional graphics to tell its story. If you’re not as old as me then you missed out on the massive wave of FMV games that hit the market (especially in the 90s) like Night Trap and Mad Dog McCree. Personally, I have not played a game in this genre since The X-Files Game on the original PlayStation back in 1999. So why in 2019 on the verge of the PlayStation 5 would I dip back into it? Is it because the trailer made it look interesting? Yes. Is it because I have an unhealthy need to add new games to my massive collection? Yes. However, the real reason as I looked at the game’s presentation at Gamescom 2019 was it’s $9.99 price tag. Let’s go!
In Erica, you follow the events in the life of one Erica Mason (Holly Earl) who at a very young age had to cope with not only the loss of her mother but also the gruesome murder of her father. The image of her father’s mutilated body as well as having stared into the eyes of his killer has manifested into vivid nightmares in her adult life. Now it seems that someone is hellbent on making her relive her past trauma and is sending her grisly clues that tie in with her childhood and family.
Erica at first glance may look very similar to what Netflix has been doing lately with their sort of “choose your own adventure” style releases like Bandersnatch and Man vs Wild. Erica does a bit more than just placing you in a situation and asking if you want to go left or right. Some of the choices that you are presented with (some branches have several at once) are there to simply move the story forward while others change how the narrative pans out. We have all seen good examples of this in games like Detroit: Become Human. What I liked about Erica is that there are some choices that seem like they would have no impact on the actual story but offer things that you will have missed otherwise. I made it through my first playthrough feeling pretty satisfied knowing that I would have to make some different choices to see everything on another go around. That’s when all of the trophies I had earned started to pop up. Trophies do not appear during gameplay so that you stay immersed (nice touch) so after my trophies appeared, I went to check out the trophy list to see what else was available. It was then that I noticed just how little of the game I had actually seen. I jumped right back in with what I had discovered in mind and a large portion of my second playthrough gave me much more depth than the first.
The game is very well shot with beautiful lighting and a haunting, dark atmosphere throughout. The acting isn’t Oscar-worthy by any means but the performances across the board go over very well. I won’t lie and say I didn’t cringe once or twice but nothing ever actually hurt my enjoyment of the game in that regard. The soundtrack was handled by Austin Wintory (Journey, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate) and blended perfectly with the atmospheric visuals. The music and sound design in general really helped me with immersion seeing as you are not in direct control of the character in this game.
There are many interactive elements however for anyone that may be thinking that all you do is just select answers at certain points. If Erica is searching for something, you won’t just be sitting back and watching it unfold. Subtle on-screen prompts will appear regularly to highlight when you are responsible for guiding what Erica does. These moments are handled by gliding one or more of your fingers across the touchpad on the Dualshock 4 controller. While I am on the subject, don’t do that. Put the controller down altogether for this game because using the touchpad is not as responsive as it needs to be. Instead, the game recommends downloading the ERICA App for IOS and Android which I did. Controlling the game using the touchscreen on my phone was a much better experience overall that with the DS4. I will warn you that you will look extremely foolish sitting on the edge of your seat staring at the TV with your phone in your hand but it is what it is.
Erica turned out to be better than I had expected. There have been a ton of games in this genre over the years but not a lot of good ones. Erica tells a decent, multi-layered story that truly is impacted by the choices you make. The different paths and multiple endings offer a good amount of replayability for a game that has a runtime similar to that of a motion picture. This was a very solid effort by Flavourworks and I am actually hoping to see more games like this from them as we get ready to start the next console generation.
Final Score 8.0/10