You’re alone in a huge house in the dead of night, washing off the blood on your face in the bathroom. You’ve just had a minor nosebleed, and while it’s nothing to worry about, you’ve actually seen this kind of thing happen before—your friends from Delphi House, a questionable institute for the mentally disturbed, have had quite a few of them too, and that certainly strikes you as odd. Plus, there’s a serial killer on the loose, who seems to be personally out to get you—that’s enough to make anyone jumpy, to say the least.
All of a sudden, you hear a loud crash downstairs. You turn around, and the window to the bathroom you’re in is eerily open, the wind billowing through the curtains. Do you inspect the open window, or head out the door to see what the ruckus is all about?
In true slasher movie fashion, these are obviously the only choices you can make, and neither of them is a very good one. Erica, as a full-motion video (FMV) game, puts you in the shoes of a young woman with a perpetual “deer caught in headlights” expression on her face, and these hopeless choices are all you have to survive. The game starts with Erica as a little girl finding her father dead in his study, his chest cut open with a weird occult symbol carved into his flesh. It’s not easy to stomach these close-ups that you, as the player, have to open up by peeling the skin to find more clues. While these actions aren’t necessary at all to the gameplay, they do add to the shock value of it all, if only for that purpose.
The concept of a girl uncovering the truth about her father’s gruesome death and discovering something else entirely in the process—complete with severed hands, cult rituals, and a contrived kiss—is a great hook to a thriller.
Speaking of the gameplay, there really isn’t much to do in Erica. You’re given branching choices in dialogue, which slowly fade away if you take too long to think about your answer. You’re also given choices as to where you want to go in certain situations, like in the bathroom scene mentioned above. Apart from that, you’ll also need to perform a bunch of tedious tasks like flicking a lighter or turning a knob, which, rather than enhance the experience of the game, tend to slow down the pace of an otherwise more engaging scene. It’s a shame, really, as the story can be engaging at the right pace.
This, I feel, is the strength of the game, at the very least. The story is pretty intriguing, and it runs at just a little under two hours. The concept of a girl uncovering the truth about her father’s gruesome death and discovering something else entirely in the process—complete with severed hands, cult rituals, and a contrived kiss—is a great hook to a thriller. Throw in a creepy mental institute and people in animal masks and you’re golden—or so you’d hope. Unfortunately, there are tons of loose ends and illogical choices littered throughout the prose. Outcomes feel a little forced, breaking the illusion that you really can choose your own adventure if you were placed in the current situation.
For instance, the very beginning of the game forces you to spend the night (and many other nights) at Delphi House, the mental institution where the murder of your father happened, just because a detective feels you’ll be safest there. How he came up with that kind of reasoning is just beyond me, and is obviously just a byproduct of the need to get Erica in that setting to progress the story.
Erica | Final Thoughts
Still, plotholes aside, I did thoroughly enjoy the clips mainly because the acting is top-notch. I sometimes found myself just wishing I was watching a movie instead of playing a game, because the constant prompts to choose jarred me out of my immersion. I only ever really wanted to know what happens in the end—even that, however, was a little bit unsatisfying for me.
There are multiple endings, of course, which invite you to replay the game over and over again. Unfortunately, the whole thing is just not compelling enough to make you want to start over. Thankfully, I did finish the game with, what I think, is the best ending in my first playthrough, leaving me with a bunch of theories as to what really happened. Plus, apparently, based on user discussions in forums, lots of players have their own speculations too, which is great player engagement.
And if a game is divisive enough to launch a whole bunch of arguments on the Internet, then it must have done something right.
TechRaptor reviewed Erica on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and on iOS.
- Top-Notch Actor Performances
- Appropriate Background Score
- Great Narrative Hook
- Oddly Contrived Decisions
- Plotholes Abound
- Gameplay Usually Gets In The Way