The best feeling when you’re a games reporter is heading into a demo feeling like you know exactly what you’re about to see – only for your expectations to be completely shattered. Erica is one such game. Announced as part of Sony’s barnstorming Paris Games Week 2017 press conference this week, it looked like a Telltale-esque pick your own adventure with live actors. And it is in a sense, but it’s way more impressive than its trailer lets on.
Part of Sony’s fledgling PlayLink line, the title sees you using a smartphone to interact with the titular character and her world. The demo opens with a shot of a steamed up mirror, and wiping the touchscreen slowly reveals the intense countenance of the lead character. She’s been crying, and you’re able to physically wipe away her tears before tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. It’s very tactile and the tech is extremely impressive considering it’s all shot with live actors.
Transitions between scenes are seamless and elegantly handled like a movie, but developer Flavourworks always gives you something to interact with. For example, a shot of a long city street reveals various items of interest, which you’re free to select using the gyroscope on your smartphone as a kind of cursor. One really neat effect is that the scene will dynamically change focus depending upon what you’re looking at, which makes you the director of the shot.
The story is essentially about Erica and her traumatic childhood, with her memories potentially playing a role in the identification of a serial killer on the loose. It plays a little bit like a classic point-and-click: there are books you can read, puzzles to solve, and lore to absorb. What’s really interesting is just how tactile the world is; unlike similar games such as The Bunker which serve up a series of connected videos, this really does feel like a real world with depth that you can actually affect.
The question mark, then, is whether its writing and acting can match up to its ambition. The sets certainly look high budget and the actress playing the part of Erica seems to have mastered the art of looking vulnerable and uncertain, but one pantomime villain who appeared towards the end of our demo did seem like he was all too eager to ham things up, and that’s ultimately where the jury will be out. The tech, though, is extraordinary – and this is one to watch.
What’s your opinion of live action games? Do you think Erica sounds like an interesting idea? Tuck your hair behind your ear and share your thoughts in the comments section below.