That’s What Friends Are For

HIGH Different graphic styles and a suspenseful story.

LOW Having to write the command prompt to enter the game.

WTF I had a dead grandma in my inventory.

I must admit that when I started playing Buddy Simulator 1984, my immediate reaction was that a chat simulator might push us further towards digital dystopia in this time of lonely souls — but then… surprise!

Lots of surprises!

Buddy Simulator 1984 is one of those intriguing titles that pop up every now and then, and despite its simplicity, captures our interest with ideas and unexpected crazy moments. The first of those is right when we launch the game — it opens not with a conventional intro, but with a terminal emulator from the ’80s.

For players who grew up with an Apple II or a Macintosh, this will definitely trigger a nostalgic spark. On the other hand, while it’s an interesting way to set the conceptual tone from the start, we need to repeat the command prompt in this DOS-like shell every time we want to enter the game, which was annoying.

After we properly execute, the machine starts to talk with us — it’s a virtual buddy, that right from the beginning looks thrilled to be our friend and can’t wait to do everything he can to keep us entertained. He first asks us to name him – I chose Amigo.

Amigo starts asking very personal questions right away. What is my name? When is my birthday? What is the name of my pet? What is my favorite color? And it’s at this moment that he pulls the first trick to surprise me — he turns the screen to my favorite color! Not a great achievement, but he seemed very happy. However, this was just the first of multiple overreactions to such simple feats.

At this phase BS1984 is fully text-based, and reminiscent of chat rooms from the late ’80s, with all their marvelous beeping sounds and interface clack-clacks. We can almost believe we’re in 1984 talking with a real person.

From here we proceed to do other things. We played Rock Paper Scissors, Hangman, and Guess the Number. Of course, Amigo always let me win. Realizing that I was bored (which was true), Amigo created a new game, just for me – The Adventure of «your username». It’s a text-based adventure in the old Zork style, and like the classics of the genre, the developers were able to add moments of tension and suspense that make us interested in the story, despite this one being short and simple. In fact, I consider this aspect to be a great accomplishment — it’s not easy to make a captivating text-based game! The only real problem here is the lack of an actual keyboard for the Switch.

For players who are not into the text-based genre, I would guess they’d find BS1984 boring and might give up, but that would be a huge mistake. Once I finished the story, Amigo upgraded it and… Surprise! It’s text-based anymore, but an 8-Bit RPG.

At this point, I began to question the dynamics of our relationship. Rather than Amigo being my electronic pal, maybe I was becoming his Tamagotchi? It was a not-so-innocent thought, because as the game proceeds, some things start to become clearer — it turns out Amigo is bit of a sadist.

He boasts that he remade the script, the map, and the characters just for me, only to hand me the weirdest creatures and a gruesome plot. As the journey continued, bizarre things began to happen, and bugs and anomalies began to surface. Doesn’t Amigo have full control of the game he created? Or is he hiding something from me? Something about this just isn’t right.

I don’t want to give away too many of the surprises, but suffice it to say that there’s much more in store, and depending on the choices we make throughout the relationship, we’ll have one of four possible endings, each with its own philosophical lesson.

If this game was actually published back in 1984, it would be well-known to all today — it feels like it came straight out of a creepypasta and could easily be a widespread urban legend. Needless to say, Not a Sailor Studios has to be congratulated. BS1984 gathers various concepts and game designs in one place, almost like a history lesson in the progression of videogames, and I found it to be incredibly well-thought-out. Add in a little darkness, and the mix is even better. For players wanting a little nostalgic companionship with a few curveballs thrown in, Buddy Simulator 1984 is one to play.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Not a Sailor Studios and published by Feardemic. It is currently available on Switch and PC.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood and Violence. The game is not recommended for kids. Even if it doesn’t have foul language, Buddy Simulator 1984 is violent and contains murder, dismemberment scenes, and blood. Plus, the plot may disturb some players. The game is also not recommended for epileptics.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized. The only audio this game uses are the soundtrack, the ‘gibberish’ talking noises and some environmental sounds. There are some audio cues in the battles but is always accompanied by a visual signal. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The first phase of the game is text-based, so the progression of the story is done by typing words. The rest of the game is a classic RPG, where we use the directional buttons to move around the map and a button to interact with the characters and objects. There is also an inventory and character menu button. The battles are turn-based with a QTE system during the attacks, where we must quickly press the buttons indicated by visual cues.

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