Erica Game Review: Quick, underwhelming, worthy of do-overs

Flavourworks is dipping its CGI toe into the world of occult mysteries and butterfly effects with its limited time free release of their interactive game, Erica.

Using the PlayStation 4 controller track pad or the smartphone companion app in the App Store, you take our protagonist, Erica, on a journey to figure out the reason behind her father’s murder and the secrets behind the hospital founded by him and his best friend.

I played through the game twice—once with the PlayStation console’s controller and the second time with the smartphone companion app.

If you’re using the app, however, you will not need to use the controller at all. The app will automatically pause the game if you get an incoming phone call or text someone back, so there’s never the worry about the game going ahead of you without making choices.

When I watched the trailer and started to play, two games automatically came to mind: Life is Strange and Until Dawn.

In Erica, you have a female protagonist with (so everyone in the game says) supernatural powers. She has to uncover the mystery of a person’s death. Unfortunately, Erica doesn’t fully understand the multitude of what is happening or what has happened until the climax of the game.

You have all the power in Erica’s choices. She has the choice to make friends with people in the hospital or keep her distance from them. She has the choice to help people or not to. She has the choice to kill people or keep them alive.

In Life is Strange, we have Max, a female protagonist who has the ability to rewind time and alter the way life moves around her. She ends up uncovering the mystery of someone’s disappearance (and then, their death).

If someone dies during gameplay, Max can reverse time in the hopes of preventing their death. It is important to note here though, that Erica is a young adult woman “temporarily staying” in a what appears to be a long-term care hospital; Max is an American teenager,

trying to navigate her high school and the ongoings of it.

All within and throughout the game of Erica is a butterfly motif. Blue butterflies appear frequently in Life is Strange.

The first thing you are introduced to in Until Dawn is the concept of the butterfly effect, the idea that even small decisions can create larger consequences and effects. Erica has a butterfly birthmark that, according to her father, marks her as special. 

Even though the idea is harped on in Until Dawn even before you start the game and begin making choices, in Erica, the butterfly effects don’t advertise themselves.

There is no butterfly appearing in the upper left-hand corner of your TV screen when you do something game-changing. The only way you notice the changes in your gameplay is by playing Erica multiple times, which gives you the chance for different endings and the chance for different choices to appear.

Both of my playthroughs for Erica took about two hours, which is a short game compared to most other interactive games with butterfly effect-type choices. Playing Until Dawn with no breaks can take about 12 hours and Life is Strange can take days, since there are five separate episodes that make up the entire game.

The gameplay itself makes me feel like I’m part of a movie. There are instances where you need to turn things off and on and instances where you light things with a Zippo lighter. The graphics also remind me of Until Dawn, with CGI so smooth, Flavourworks made it look like you’re playing a video game using real people and not digitized ones.

With all choice-making games, the gameplay can feel underwhelming and not as exciting. These feelings, however, I think come with any interactive video game since it always ends up being what you make it based on your own decisions. Also take into consideration the number of times an interactive game like this can be played, with a variety of endings, choices and things to find. 

The underwhelming feeling you get when playing Erica or any game similar to it tends to go away after a handful of repeated playthroughs because there’s always something different to do and discover when you play again.

If you’re a fan of either Until Dawn or Life is Strange, I recommend giving Erica a try. Also be sure to give it the proper treatment of being played multiple times. (Hint: There are six endings!)

I preferred using the smartphone companion app to Erica over the Play Station 4’s console. The app will take up your entire phone screen, giving a player the necessary space to move your cursor when you need to and not accidentally bumping it when you don’t. You can play both vertical and horizontal on your smartphone and it won’t affect the way your cursor moves.

I also recommend playing Erica simply because my name is Erika as well and it has overall felt so amazing to play a video game with the same name. I’ll refrain from critiquing the spelling.

If you have a PlayStation Plus account, you can currently download Erica for free until August 4th. 

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