When’s the last time you played a game that made you anxious?
I’m not talking about, “Oh, crap, I have 100,000 souls in Dark Souls III that I can lose at any moment!” anxiety, I’m talking about that old “Waking up and realizing you haven’t started a report that was due that day in high school”-type freakouts. Can you think of one? I can.
One morning while playing the new Mr. Robot mobile game, I turned on my cell phone. On it was a text message from someone who was questioning why one of his employees was installing a patch in the server room, when one wasn’t scheduled. He asked who I was...and I was legitimately scared to answer, because I had tricked his employee into installing it.
Do I be a prick and pretend to be his superior? Do I pretend I don’t know what’s going on, that I’m just following orders from a screw-up? Maybe I could just level with him, explaining that it’s for the greater good?
Just like in Telltale Games’ other adventure games, there are usually never any easy answers. You generally have three choices for responses, but none of them ever feel safe. You’re doing bad things here, or at the very least, illegal ones (make sure to enter your real first name when you start it up for maximum immersion!). And as silly as it sounds, it took me a long time before I answered this message. When I did, the little ellipse that indicated that he was formulating a reply gave me even more stress…would the jig be up?
MR.ROBOT:1.51exfiltratiOn is published by Telltale Games, but it was created by Oxenfree developers Night School Studio. The easiest way to describe the game is as a Mr. Robot version of Lifeline, an incredible series that any mobile game should be familiar with (seriously, get them if you haven't, they’re great).
Rather than sitting down to play a game, the game plays in real-time over the course over about a week (it took me five days.) You are someone who found a burner cell phone on the ground in Coney Island and picked it up, wiping it and installing the E-Corp app. The app itself mimics an E-Corp messaging app, and the entire game plays out via text messages.
It all starts off when strange system messages appear and your phone “restarts” itself, and eventually you find yourself being contacted by a very angry person who seems to suddenly know a lot about you. By stealing the phone and wiping the data you’ve interrupted a very important project in the works, and now she’s making you be a part of it lest she ruin your life.
You’re going to have to use social hacking to steal people’s login info and personal information, trading files with various characters from the show, all of whom are perfectly written and immediately identifiable. You’ll get notifications from the app just like any other texting app, and that includes some hilarious spam and even an annoying group message that you get stuck in. It’s up to you how to go about your task, but you are now a hacker.
This also means that you can utterly ruin people’s lives. The little ellipse of a message being written works wonders to make you feel like you’re genuinely texting a real human being, and the game gives you ample opportunities to do horrible things to people. This game made me realize that it’s a good thing I’m not a hacker because when given the chance I would totally use my powers for evil. Numerous times I felt pity for the poor sucker I was getting to do my bidding...but it was all for a reason, right?
The game takes place immediately after the fifth episode of the show (the prison one) and fans of Mr. Robot will be pleased to know that they have a direct influence one of the few unexplained major events. It’s tense and utterly thrilling, all owing to the fantastic writing and perfect UI. It's even more impressive that it's all done via text.
As a tie-in it’s hard to think of a better one than this. It completely makes you feel like you’re part of the universe, interacting with the characters in a way few other games ever have. We can only hope there are more installments in the works.
MR.ROBOT:1.51exfiltratiOn is currently available on iOS and Android for $2.99.