The storyline's compelling but why aren't there any skip options?
Erica (played by Holly Earl) is haunted by her father's murder. After receiving a mysterious package with a severed hand in it, Erica returns home, to the hospital where her father died. With each decision that she makes and each discovery that she uncovers, Erica steps closer to the finale of a branching narrative.
Here be spoilers…
What we like
Ah, remember the heyday of full-motion video (FMV) games? The 7th Guest? Phantasmagoria? They were supposed to be immersive, to provide a seamless flow between cutscenes and video gameplay. It would have worked except the acting were always hammy.
For Erica, the acting is stellar. Holly Earl plays the doe-eye titular character, who is likeable and maintains a level of intrigue, while the supporting cast helps move the story along. Throughout the gameplay, you're trying to suss out who your enemies and allies are and it's interesting to see them play their parts as neutral as possible, without giving away their motives (it must seem strange that I'm lauding something that's supposed to be a given but, in my experience, the characters in many FMV games tend to fall prey to stereotypes; ie, the villains acting villain-y, the red herring suspect acting over-the-top suspicious).
The story is engrossing. There may be some narrative tropes here (ie, crazy people in mental in institutes, a policeman who is torn between upholding the law or giving into love) but the other mystery elements kept this afloat.
You can also tell that some money is pumped into the production. The set looks great, the costumes look like they belong to there. If this weren't a video game, it could have been a near full-fledged TV thriller (then again, who's to say that a video game can't boast TV-level sophistication?). There's something to Flavourworks' (the game studio behind Erica) patented Touch Video but it doesn't hit the mark, which brings us to our next section…
What we didn't like
Flavourworks' Touch Video is supposed to allow for a breathing interactive live-action experience. You can either use the PS4 controller's touchpad or through the Erica companion app to select your choices but it wasn't intuitive for me. The touchpad is too small for me to swipe and the first time I used the companion app, the game hung on me (a follow-up app update, didn't give me any issue).
But what about replayability value? Sure, if you like sitting through the SAME SHIT AGAIN AND AGAIN. For a game with a 'choose-your-own-adventure' motif, you can't skip the parts that you have played through. Netflix's Bandersnatch, which also utilises the 'choose-your-own-adventure' device, gives you an option to scrub through scenes but not Erica. You gotta go through the motions like a damn fool.
What to look out for
There are six endings to the game but as we've mentioned before, you can't skip through the scenes you've played before. So, if you have the patience of Job, you can keep replaying the game to get all of them.
Erica is out now for PS4.