Last year Simogo debuted Editors’ Choice winner Year Walk, a game that rejected the notions of casual gaming but fully embraced the mobile platform. Device 6 ($3.99, App Store), Simogo’s most recent effort, explores narrative and choice, but uses text to take the player on a surreal journey. Though Device 6 is mostly textual, it’s not really a “text adventure.” It’s more an enhanced digital novel, in which you progress amid text that’s peppered with moving images (not video) and audio.
The story begins with you as Anna waking confused and drugged in a mysterious castle. Except you don’t really see any of this. Rather you scroll through a written narrative. Following the story means turning your phone this way and that as the story zigs and zags.
It might seem gimmicky, but ever-present footsteps and ambient sound help to define a real sense of space and setting. The noise of the sea rises and falls as you move away from the ocean, gravel crunches underfoot, a tape player recites cryptic clues, and there’s even a Hitchcockian orchestral stab at a dramatic moment.
Your environment—what you read, but also often what you see and hear—offers clues for unlocking the puzzle in each chapter of the story. This usually means piecing together a password to open a door that leads to the next chapter. The puzzles can be quite challenging, and the first is tricky enough that it might scare off some players, but then the six chapters of the game begin to feel familiar. About halfway through, I was confidently picking up on clues as they were given to me.
In between each chapter are a series of increasingly bizarre questionnaires. These are welcome, silly breaks between the tense chapters, but their absurd requirements will start to make you question what the game is really about.
Smart and Stylishly Simplistic
Device 6′s deceptively simple presentation doesn’t mean it’s a rushed job. The game has a very strong design language for its sound and visuals that really pulled me in. Both the story and game itself draw a lot of inspiration from 60s mod spy stories, with homages to Vertigo and The Prisoner sprinkled throughout.
Instead of placing emphasis on “cutting-edge” “breathtaking” graphics, or other video-game clichés, Device 6 bets heavily on style. And it works. The game feels very tight, almost meticulously crafted. And the simple interface gives the developers a lot of opportunity to break their own rules, and surprise the player.
You Have No Choice
Similar to Year Walk, Device 6 is not a pick-up-and-play kind of game. Though I’ve had Device 6 for weeks, I never played it during my commute—opting for the one-handed time wasting of Ridiculous Fishing instead. The puzzles in each chapter require a fair amount of attention to solve, not to mention the fact that you’ll need to listen carefully for clues and probably take notes as well. Device 6 is best enjoyed as a book—in one or several uninterrupted sessions. If you’re looking to kill some time, check out Candy Crush instead.
Also like Year Walk, Device 6 has little to offer a repeat player. The puzzles are the same each time you play, and while there are layers of nuance to uncover, the game is frustratingly linear.
But that’s really the point of Device 6. Beyond the game’s bleak fatalism is a challenging question of choice in narrative. As the player, you’re free to move as you please but you only have one choice: follow the game’s singular path and either solve the puzzles or stop playing. Anna, the game’s central character (to whom you’re close closely tied) has even fewer options as she obeys the whims of Device 6′s author. At the same time, you become an unwitting party as your play makes the game’s events come to pass. The inflexible text appearing with every stroke of the screen becomes less of a path to be explored and more a sinister conveyor belt that draws you toward the story’s inevitable conclusion. Even if it’s not the conclusion you wanted.
This might not be what you want out of a mobile game, and I can’t blame you. But if you’re open to being challenged and enjoy a good puzzle, Editors’ Choice winner Device 6 delivers.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc