Is it a game? Is it an interactive movie? Is it a crime horror story? Erica is it all. It is primarily an experiment, and it is to be praised that Sony is making such a brave attempt at innovation with a game for the Playstation.
The company calls Erica itself a live-action interactive thriller, and also regards it as pioneers with some news. It is nice that Sony occasionally takes such new and strange steps, because the game industry usually plays very safe. Continued after continuation, especially not too difficult – many new games are a copy of their successful predecessor, adapted at most to the new technical possibilities.
Erica does not do that. It is a story in which you as a viewer are in control and make choices for your main character – after which the story starts to move in that direction. At least, that is the suggestion that the makers give. That is possible with your game controller, but also via an app on your phone.
In the first instance it is mainly about getting the controls a bit and you can put on a lighter and light an oil lamp. But soon it is all about allowing Erica to ask questions or not, having documents read or ignoring and deciding to walk into the dark corridor or not.
The story is primarily a thriller: As a young girl, Erica witnesses the murder of her father, while her mother was no longer alive. That mother had magical powers. Erica has to use her ingenuity and that magic when, years later, she receives a bloody package with a severed hand. The similarity is a symbol that is applied to both her dead father and this body part.
Technically, the interaction is by no means perfect
The story is well put together and that is a good starting point. But technically the interaction is not nearly perfect. That occasionally causes a delay, whereby the image momentarily halts. That detracts from the feeling that you are really in the story.
Although Erica offers something new for game consoles – you really watch a movie with actors, not an animation – the idea of such an interactive story is not new. Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch last year and that uses the same principle. With your remote control you make choices in the story. And for PCs (Windows and Mac), the fantastic Telling Lies was published last month.
The following applies to both: they do better than Erica. The story runs smoother and is also more varied than what Sony is trying now. But we are still in the experimental phase, so who knows what will happen next.
Erica, exclusively for Playstation 4. Developer Flavourworks, publisher Sony Computer Entertainment. Age 16+