Developer: Tritrie Games
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Genre: Full-Motion Video Game
Available on: PC
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: https://tritriegames.de/
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Where To Buy: Steam Store
Narrative games have quickly become part of the mainstream gaming scene, thanks to their accessibility for non-gamers. Anyone who doesn’t play games can pick up something like Life is Strange and have a great time, without the hassle of more intense games. Besides those accessible ones though, there are games that are in a similar style but are for the more puzzling minds. Hacknet is a great example of that and is one that’s incredibly memorable to me. Another game in that sub-genre is Jessika, a full-motion video game where you must discover the reason for a girl’s suicide.
Jessika’s Few Strengths
Jessika drops you into a cafe, armed with your laptop and decryption knowledge in hand. This laptop runs yOS, an operating system that’s scarily similar to macOS, but with a few extra perks. You have a messaging app, emails, and most importantly for the game, decryption software. This is a hacking tool that decrypts encrypted files, which serves as the main puzzle of the game. Using tags from key points within the videos is an interesting take on things and one I haven’t seen much before. It serves well in the game’s favor, giving the mystery a unique touch that depends on player choice. Given that I’m a big fan of player choice in games, it’s good to see.
This player choice extends to Jessika’s dialogue options. They don’t matter towards the overarching story which is a shame, but it’s nice that they change your dialogue with other chat users. With how many narrative games there are where they don’t change much, it’s a nice touch. There were even options I would’ve chosen in those situations, nearly word for word. It’s frankly something I haven’t seen to that level of quality before, especially not from indie games I’ve played.
Unfortunately, that’s where Jessika’s strengths end. The story is, quite frankly, a mess beyond what I’ve seen before. Much of Jessika’s life and thoughts come through audio clips, which are decent through the first hour of the game. They aren’t perfect by any means, with some audio logs reiterating the same points, but I’ve seen worse. After that hour though, Jessika takes a dark turn in her life following a tragic event. This would make sense if that dark turn had something to do with what happened. I won’t go into much to avoid spoilers, but it’s bizarre to the point where I don’t understand what the writers were thinking.
I went through every audio log and document following my first playthrough of Jessika just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, and it remained the same. It almost rivals the change in tone for Game of Thrones season eight which if you know that is saying a lot. Without building up towards this change properly, that shift makes no sense. Perhaps if the game had been a bit longer, they could’ve taken the time to build up this change and have it make sense. In the moment, you spend more time wondering what just happened than anything.
Jessika’s Disturbing Confusion
I’d like to touch on one way the game shows this change in tone which for some is disturbing. Jessika discusses certain people she meets using harsh language. These consist of racial slurs regarding people of color and those of Pakistan heritage. While the use of these slurs works in some cases of media, Jessika’s use of them feels unnecessary. The game has gotten her beliefs out at that point, so what reasoning is there to use that language? If anything, it just serves to be harmful towards people of those ethnicities, which can harm experiences substantially.
All of this culminates in an ending with a twist that makes sense but doesn’t hit as hard as it should. The buildup is such a jumbled mess of random emotions that leave you wondering what’s going on rather than piecing together the clips. The most die-hard FMV fans may find Jessika’s story here interesting to put together. Anyone else though is going to walk away confused instead of intrigued, especially with all the plotholes. It feels very much like the start of something wonderful, but the potential here is used to create something much bigger than its time can allow.
To end things off, it’s worth touching on the acting and voice acting in Jessika. Much of the actor’s portrayal is done relatively well, with some good moments that convey emotions how they should. When it comes to voice acting though, the English version is abysmal. Jessika will voice statements like questions, for example, which has you looking at voice clips confused. This can be remedied with the German voice option, but the English subtitles are filled with errors. As an editor myself, small mistakes in writing are a big pet peeve of mine, especially in a final product.
Verdict: Jessika is a game with a wonderful premise, exploring the downfall of someone and their ideologies. There’s a lot that can be used from that point alone, especially with some good strides in player choice. Unfortunately, the game squanders this by creating a story much larger than what can fit its short run-time. Things get rushed and cut out, leaving fans confused and disturbed rather than intrigued. On top of all that, the voice work and English subtitles are poorly done, slapping a layer of unfinished polish to the title. While the most die-hard FMV fans may get something out of Jessika, others will likely walk away confused and regretful of their time spent.
- Intriguing premise
- Strides in player choice
- Confusing story
- Poor writing
- Lack of polish
- Poor English voiceover
- Disturbing content