SIMULACRA: Pipe Dreams is a comment on gaming addiction (and peeing birds)
At the end of the year, you can look back and think about the things you made in life. Your success, your experiences – but also your mistakes. You may worry and want to talk to a friend. Or better: You should. Otherwise, you may not find the way to yourself or to catharsis. In consequence, you’ll find a new friend or replacement for the missing success in your life in a videogame.
However, Simulacra: Pipe Dreams is another found-phone-game and a successor to Simulacra as well as Sara Is Missing from Kaigan Games. All games have in common that they simulate a phone in your phone. This idea, which can also be found in several other mobile games like A Normal Lost Phone, helps to get more involved into the game – the immersion rises. So, also this spin-off of Simulacra feels and behaves like a phone of a nameless person or like “your” phone. After watching a weird video on it sent by your best friend Teddy, he’s asking you how you felt during watching. Right after that, Teddy answers in a different tone. Harsh and un-friendly. Whether your answer is nice or not, he’ll tend to be rude – and not for the last time. But it seems normal, regarding his current situation: He lost his job and every letter of application has been denied. He’s done with it and focuses more and more on the mobile game “Flappee Bird”. He asks you for help in the game, for donating him in-game currencies and for playing the game with you. All he wants is gaining more success, more appreciation for his skills, and more friends. We are supposed to help him.
As you can see, the main feature of this spin-off is a game in the game. The story unfolds more and more during or after playing FlappeeBird, but also on the implemented social network “Jabbr” and in chats with other friends after inviting them to FlappeeBird. A persistent effect in the game is the black-marked text in the chat, which has sort-of a main role in this game too. If you want to, you can think about three main characters: You, “good” Teddy and “bad” Teddy. Then, see FlappeeBird as a connection between them and add a little bit of reality to it. Voilà: You’ve found some of the current topics of the game – connecting people through video games and, having the obsession of Teddy in mind, video game addiction. Further, friendship and resilience in life seem to have another role in this.
So far, the story feels engaging and has it’s twists and turns. Sadly and in contrary to the shown variety, thinking back to the “original” Simulacra as you can see in Andreas’ review, the story isn’t that deep or mysterious. There are some hints and puzzles, but the focus is on FlappeeBird and sort-of being addicted to it during playing Simulacra: Pipe Dreams itself. This is due to your main task: beating the high score of FlappeeBird, and it is going to be harder and harder every time. Your eggs, a currency for power-ups in the game, will help you and can easily be generated in watching ads or selling your lifetime (hint: the latter is also an aspect regarding addiction). Playing the game-in-the-game and reading the main dialogue with Teddy keeps you entertained, but on a more casual level.
Also, as I barely mentioned, ads will be displayed during the game. Most of the ads are made by Kaigan Games and may have some kind of story element included, in which they refer to other (addictive) mobile games or to… let’s say… “surprising content”. Like its predecessor, this spin-off is more a horror game – so be warned to feel “surprised”. Unfortunately, and as far as I can tell, I had a mix of ads served by the game and additional ads like you find in free games on iOS and Android. This mix was confusing and sometimes frustrating, as the time limit for skipping the ad was different and the real ads were matched to your country – in my case: Germany. So, I had German and English ads in an English game, which easily destroys the immersion I mentioned. In addition to that, there was no “premium mode” or any possibility to pay for it and getting rid of these ads. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t avoid to sell some of my lifetime to play this game. This meta aspects fits to the game, but is a contra for me although it would be a clever idea if it was intended.
The shallow storyline and sometimes ridiculous idea of a peeing bird (and continuing the pee in the game too) as well as the not well-managed advertisement make this game not a must-play at first sight. But, you can think of Simulacra: Pipe Dreams more as a demo of Simulacra instead of a spin-off. For me, maybe because I wasn’t too much of a detective, there wasn’t a deep connection to the main part of the series. Sure, there are similarities, bot you can barely see connections between both games. Having said that, I definitely recommend Simulacra: Pipe Dreams besides the ad’s in the game and the corresponding problem. A demo often is only a part of the game or could be a prototype for ideas. Also, the playtime of around 2 hours speaks for the idea of a demo. Finally, I hope Kaigan Games is working on a full, standalone part of the Simulacra series without advertisement and more mystery in it.
SIMULACRA: Pipe Dreams is available for free on mobile devices (Android/iOS) and Steam.