By Josh Savory
Don’t tell my boss, but my job periodically affords me downtime and in those moments I get lost in the Sonic Dashes and Tetrises of the Google Play Store. Recently, however, I randomly came across a mobile horror game by Kaigan Games called Sara Is Missing. I figured, “hey I like horror,” so I decided to give it a shot.
Sara Is Missing (or S.I.M.) is a first-person horror game with an interesting concept. The story starts with you finding a corrupted cellphone and performing a system reboot to restore the phone’s capabilities. After the phone is somewhat functional again, the phone’s A.I. assistant, IRIS, immediately notices that you are not the phone’s owner, Sara. Fearing Sara might be in danger, IRIS then tasks you with going through Sara’s texts, emails, pictures, and videos to piece together where Sara is and find out her status. When the time comes, you also get to make choices in game, but more on that later.
As the story progresses, you’ll start to learn more about Sara, her relationships, and what’s actually going on in this world as a whole, but there are some unreliable characters littered throughout this experience. Obviously, right off the top, you should feel unsettled playing this game since there’s an A.I. expressing feelings and wants. That’s what Terminator was trying warning us about.
The found footage style of the game lends itself well to making the atmosphere unsettling and creepy. Aside from the jump scares, there’s something voyeuristic about going through a missing person’s cell phone and receiving messages from their friends. The game design is good and intuitive, with a few caveats.
Seriously though, what is the point of putting a keyboard into the game if I can’t type whatever I want in as my responses? I started writing profanity into the keyboard and it just autocorrected into one of the two choices I had for responses. What even is that?
There are three big issues that I have with this game.
First, the scares in this game are mainly cheap jump scares, which have been done to death because of Hollywood’s obsession with inserting cheaply made horror into every PG-13 horror movie since 2005. And I would have been more OK with this, but there are images used in the game that you might recognize from popular creepypastas around The Internet. While the developers may have received permission to use these images, they completely take you out of the world that Sara Is Missing is trying to build. The game also pulls video from the popular web series Marble Hornets and that action feels incredibly disingenuous.
Second, let’s talk about the story. While it starts out fairly interesting, and trying to find out more about Sara and the overall mystery is fun, after running through the game twice I feel there are several questions that remain unanswered. I’m not sure if they were planning on doing a sequel, but it really feels like there are pieces to this puzzle that were overlooked or intentionally left out. The story initially seems good, but once you start to think about it more critically, it almost completely falls apart.
Third, and probably most important of all, (SPOILERS!!) the choices you make don’t REALLY matter. No seriously. At one point, Sara’s friend, James, gets into trouble and you can save him by sharing a link to a cursed video with someone else in Sara’s contacts. But, whether or not you share the link, James dies in the same manner. Even the final decision only changes a few of the final lines in the game’s script. It’s oddly reminiscent of that response
Sara Is Missing is a case of great concept with an okay execution. Like other games in this genre, such as I Am Innocent or Her Story, the investigative play style of the game is intriguing enough to merit trying this game out on your own. The game is incredibly short, with one run-through taking about thirty minutes to an hour depending on how fast you read, but I think there’s enough here to give it a try. For a free game, it tells a pretty good story; you can tell the developers cared about this project. The question is will you care?
I’m giving this 6 missing people out of 10. It is worth at least one run-through.