So let me preface this review by stating that Erica, is a choose-your-path Murder Mystery title, and there are multiple outcomes that can be had throughout your time playing the game. The following, will reflect my first playthrough.
Wow. So I have to say, I’m not usually one for FMV style title’s. Nor have I ever been a fan of the PlayStation Playlink idea, but holy crap did this one take me by surprise, and how I do love me a good surprise. Just as it was, when Sony decided to delightfully drop Erica upon us, yesterday at GamesCom. While I may not have come around to the idea of a live action style, choose-your-path genre previously, Erica has certainly changed my tune here and could very well be one of the best interactive Murder Mystery/Whodunnit? titles in years. Originally announced at Paris Games Week in 2017, there have been quite a number of changes aesthetically to Erica since it’s initial reveal, but it may have been for the better. Developed by Flavourworks, and Directed by Jack Attridge, the game follows it’s titular character and protagonist Erica Mason, a young woman who is haunted by dreams of her violent past. Her father Peter Mason, is believed to have led a care center, known as Delphi House where Erica had grown up with her parents, and her father’s business partner, Lucien Flowers.
After many years have passed since these events have occurred, Erica now lives alone in what looks to be an old, run-down apartment somewhere in Great Britain. Traumatised by these events, she suffers from continuous nightmares from said events of that night. When suddenly awoken by a freight, she is lead to her apartment door where strange noises occur from her neighbour across the hall who seems to have had a long night out on the town. Erica checks on her neighbours welfare, but then heads back into her apartment where she seems to be sketching her past memories in a diary. These include a symbol known as the Delphic Epsilon, which was carved into her fathers chest. As the story progresses, the symbol becomes synonymous with the plot of this interactive thriller. She receives a mystery package from an unknown address which contains a severed and bloodied hand holding a medallion with the epsilon represented on it.
The story behind the ancient greek symbol, is that it was placed at the top of the pediment temple of Apollo the Delphi, to worship light. It had the philosophical meaning to “know thyself” and “nothing in excess” (Meden Agan/Moderation). It’s a flip of the coin statement, meaning to search for yourself and that moderation is a pure principle of life. The plot pertains to these two meanings here perfectly, as it will become quite evident once choices are given to to players, and how said choices will ultimately shape Erica’s story. With her father’s murder case never solved, this leads Sargent Duncan Blake to bring Erica back to Delphi house, where he presumes that Mr. Flowers may be the next target. The aim of this story is to guide Erica towards finding her parents true killers, and the true mystery of Delphi House.
Now, I can’t go into anymore detail as the title, is only two hours long, the length of a feature film. The performances here are outstanding, and completely convincing. The game is anchored by Holly Earl, and her initial portrayal as the wide-eyed, and traumatised Erica Mason. Her personality traits plays-in-part perfectly, as there are multiple transitions of her character throughout the game, showing off Holly’s amazing credibility as an actor, making her a top talent for Sony Interactive to seek out for any future title’s. We’re met with a myriad of characters throughout our time at Delphi House, that essentially place an assortment of pieces to incomplete puzzle, right in the palm our hands. Once initially booting Erica, the game gives you the option to download it’s companion app, which it insists is the best way to play the game. I would also say, playing with headphones adds a whole new level of depth to the interactive experience.
With previous experiences from other PlayLink title’s, I can confidently say that Erica is definitely the best one thus far. Once downloading the companion app (available on iOS and Android), the game seamlessly synced and was ready to go. Having control over the protagonists actions with a simple swipe, added a depth and flair that most FMV title’s have attempted to try and accomplish, but have not come close to the depth Erica presents. From moments of pure intrigue, by simply swiping across your phone screen for Erica to clean off a dusty old scratched up desk, to flicking open and close a lighter, representing total anxiety. Being able to choose your path, and answer questions by sliding your cursor above said choices, gave me flashbacks to the original season of Life is Strange. It’s multitude of choices does not lack here, with an outstanding range of paths to choose from. While most interactive choose-your-path style title’s forcefully rely on a 50/50 choice, I was glad to see the replay value for this title become quite evident from the onset, and promises to go beyond that philosophy. Couple these details that with an amazing score, composed by the awesome Austin Wintory (Journey, Abzu, The Banner Saga), and your downright ready for one of the most thrilling, interactive murder-mystery tales presented.
Erica is amazing. A thriller that ultimately tests your better judgement and pure instinct. Combine that with an incredible Whodunnit? that ultimately twists into a fantastic murder-mystery, with an intriguing cast of characters, that is ultimately led by an incredible performance from lead actress Holly Earl, who I do hope Sony take a vested interest in for any upcoming projects that may need a strong female lead. Her performance here shines through this grim and violent, post traumatic tale of a young girl trying to escape the horrors of her tainted past. With such an engrossing experience ready to be played right in the palm of your hands, it’s a bite sized tale that only will cost you a two cups of coffee (That’s around about $13 bucks, right?). Erica is highly recommended and essential gaming, for casual and experienced gamers alike, and would definitely be considered one of the best surprises Sony Interactive Studios have presented us this year.
Erica – Flavourworks