Live action video games have been around for decades yet none have featured the finesse of Flavourworks' Erica.
I remember renting a few PS1 games back in the day that were basically interactive movies such as Fox Hunt and Psychic Detective. Even back then, I knew it was a novelty and these goofy gaming experiences would never be mainstream. However, now that I've played Erica, it's pretty clear that live action video games can be very engaging when done right. Erica stars the titular protagonist as she tries to uncover who killed her father. Right off the bat, you're introduced to supernatural elements as Erica and her mother are said to have powers such as being able to see into the future. When you combine the detective mystery narrative with the otherworldly prospect of superhuman abilities, you're left with a promising premise for a gripping story. Thankfully, the plot that follows delivers just that.
Erica features absolutely stunning cinematography with subtle camera movements, striking angles, and beautiful colour palettes and set designs. Plus, the cast of actors do a phenomenal job of portraying their characters. The main location is a strange hospital-like facility and in there, you'll meet the quirky and meticulous Kirstie, the cold and mysterious Tobi, and the helpful and warm Hannah. You'll also meet a cop named Blake who you don't know if you should trust or not as well as the old caretaker of the facility, Lucien. Erica herself remains distant throughout as if she's always thinking about something which reflects how you, the player, will likely feel while playing it.
You can play Erica by using a mobile device or the DualShock 4 and I enjoyed it via the app on my iPad. The gameplay merely involves minor interactions with certain objects and making decisions. Some of these prompts have strict time limits so you often have to think quickly and if you don't, the outcome may be disappointing. Anyway, interactions such as focusing the camera on a distant object, wiping dust off something, or unveiling a scene from a different time period look amazing. With that being said, most of these interactions seem superfluous with the only substantial ones being plot-altering decisions. If I were being cynical, I could say that it all boils down to little more than a DVD menu but obviously, Erica is a much richer experience than that. I still wish there was more interactivity, though.
Erica's story isn't clearly laid out for you and you'll have to do a lot of digging as well as play through it multiple times in order to further understand its intentionally convoluted plot. Even after you do, you'll still wonder what's real or not. As a result, you'll either love or hate the story as you'll end up being delighted by the mystery of it all or frustrated that it doesn't immediately make sense.
Finally, one aspect that could definitely use a lot of work is the fact that the characters don't have much exposition before the story begins and therefore, character development takes a backseat to mystery and occasional drama. I would have especially liked to see more about Erica before being thrust into her complicated life, especially through montages of when times were simpler.
Erica is an outstanding production that may jumpstart the interactive live action game genre yet again. Even though it has its fair share of issues, Erica will definitely leave an impression on you for long after you watch the end credits roll.
- + Gorgeous cinematography and top-notch acting that will keep you hooked
- + Interactive parts look outstanding
- + Good replay value if you want to dig deeper
- - Not much satisfying character exposition or development
- - Could use more interactivity
- - Lack of tangible plot may frustrate some