Hey there! Have you ever wanted to play a game that in every shape of the word is a spiritual adaptation of The Prisoner? You know, that British sci-fi show with the 1960s era spy fiction tone, a brainwashing/mind control surveillance conspiracy, and experimentally stylish as all hell? You are? Cool! Is it ok that it’s on mobile iOS only and kinda pricey? And most of the game is text with puzzles interspersed? No?
Welp, now you see my predicament in recommending this game.
DEVICE6 is a love letter to The Prisoner from my favorite game company, Simogo. The company prides itself on “never making the same game twice”, which in that sense has them going everywhere from horror depressing “walking sim” to a weird but stylish interactive “rhythm” game. The latter, “Sayonara Wild Hearts”, has thankfully shone a bigger spotlight on the company thanks to its showing at The Game Awards, but unfortunately DEVICE6 never got the same treatment outside of insular mobile game awards that showered it with awards and promptly booted it out the front door to the…. “Mobile game market” that cares more about a game you can play in short spurts and on the go rather than one that requires you to get out a pen and paper so you can piece together the puzzles.
Alas, this is the latter.
DEVICE6’s gimmick is how it uses the mobile interface to read through text that will require you to move the phone every which way, from upside down to vertical, horizontal, and sometimes even asking you to use a mirror. Sometimes the text even splits into branches for you to follow, and the text is both the story and what leads to the meat, the puzzles. Puzzles in the game are centered around audio logs you stumble across, visual paintings that you pass by, sometimes even from previous statements from the text. It is a game where the pen and paper is your friend, not your enemy. While the game is not as tricky to put together as, say, La-Mulana, it isn’t easy either.
The premise, on the other hand, is simple. A lady finds herself in an abandoned castle without memory of how she got there, and stumbles around trying to find answers of where she is and why she’s there. Without spoiling, what you end up with is a meta device between the main character and you, and a conspiracy surrounding the namesake of the game… and people in black. Puzzling!
Speaking of puzzling, to give an example of a puzzle in DEVICE6, I’ll use the first chapter. In the chapter as you’ll explore the area through text, you’ll find a screen without battery, a machine asking for a passcode, a machine with buttons L and R, a display that cycles through cameras around a building, and an audio log describing the answers to only one of the previous with vague clues such as “where red meets yellow in a frame” and a framed number between “hope and lies”. It requires you to go back through the text for clues and images around the area. And to me, the puzzles are pretty ingenious in their relative simplicity while still forcing you to wrap your brain around the answers, as well as a dedication to paying attention to what you read.
The game also oozes with style and atmosphere. There’s a reason the game asks you to use headphones, not just for its audio logs, but to help immerse yourself in the atmosphere that never reaches horror but always keeps you out of your depth. You can see what I mean by “The Prisoner” vibes. The sound effects are in-house from reality to add more to it, and there’s numerous references throughout the game, for better or for worse. The trailer for the game should make it very clear what you’re getting into.
DEVICE6 is a brilliant mobile game that I wish was more popular if it wasn’t stuck solely to one platform that not a lot of gamers play (whether from stigma or justifiable problems with the industry) and had a somewhat sizable price point for that platform to boot. I highly recommend watching the trailer for it to get a real sense of what the game has in store, and I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with what you find, creepy doll notwithstanding.
All hail DEVICE 6.
(Thanks to Ash for helping me with this review!)
Reviewed on Aug 15, 2020