Where do I start with Buddy Simulator 1984? Well, for one, it’s a game I highly suggest walking into knowing as little as possible, which makes it particularly hard for me to review the game as I don’t want to spoil things.
So to make things easier and to maintain the mystique of what makes Buddy Simulator 1984 so novel, I’m going to start by talking about it as free as spoilers as possible. If you’re still not sure or just want to dive in a bit more after that, by all means, go ahead, but again I really must say this is a game worth going into with little to no expectations.
It’s good; in fact, at specific points, it is excellent. Even the trailer for the game managed to sell it to me without spoiling or even revealing what the core of the game was going to be, which is absolutely an impressive feat to accomplish.
Buddy Simulator 1984 is on paper a game about spending time with your simulated Buddy, an A.I. being that exists to pal around with on your computer. You can play rock paper scissors, hangman, guess the number, as well as just let your Buddy get to know you and make you new games.
The narrative of the game and A.I. experience will reveal itself through the course of the games you play with your Buddy. While insightful into the meta-narrative and often quite fun, the games made for you are not the core of Buddy Simulator 1984. At its heart, Buddy Sim 1984 is a game about you and your Buddy and the complex relationship between the two of you.
If that all sounds great to you and you can handle a fair dose of psychological frustration, I highly suggest you play the game. It’s only $10 on Steam and nets about 5 hours of highly engaging gameplay on one playthrough alone. Multiple playthroughs are not required but are certainly rewarding.
Now, onto a more intensive review.
An Extensive Review
If you’re a fan of games like Undertale, you’re probably going to enjoy this one as it hits many of the same notes while also portraying its own themes of discomfort outside of the game, well, outside of the game presented by your Buddy.
Often these themes can border on horror, but I never concluded that this was a horror game. The scary aspects were trumped by themes of emotional manipulation and control that were far more tolling than the occasional jump scare. It’s definitely an upsetting game, more so the further in you get as the plot and mechanics evolve, but this discomfort is part of what it does so well. I was left second-guessing myself and often my own treatment of the A.I., which, I’m sure, is a goal of the developers. Even at the end of the game, I was uncertain as to how much of what was happening was my own fault.
I’m not really positive how I feel about the themes of manipulation, purposeful or not, and in that way, Buddy Simulator is an astonishing success. There’s this deep and murky pool of moral ambiguity and interpersonal discomfort of expectation between me and this character, and I am constantly unsure if it is my fault or not. I came away from the game doubtful of my place in the events that unfolded but unquestionably feeling something from the experience, even if that something I was feeling was not positive. One thing I can say with surety is that my first playthrough was an engrossing encounter.
As for all the technical aspects outside of the narrative, Buddy Simulator 1984 is a perfectly fine game. The art and constant evolution of the game remain just as simple as it needs to be. There’s a sense of tonal continuity even amongst the same musical tracks as they evolve along with the plot. That, in particular, is impressive. The art and music change in direction with the game so as to feel like I am genuinely in a reinventive and evolutionary experience. The setting and world don’t really change, but rather, the lens through which I see them is constantly changing. Gameplay, art style, and music all do respectively well in this regard.
In conclusion, I think Buddy Simulator 1984 succeeds at the goal it sets out to achieve. The dynamic between you and the A.I. feels very real, and your interactions with the game feel meaningful in context to that relationship. While there are some deeply uncomfortable moments, the story says a lot about interpersonal relationships and how we perceive ourselves in those relationships. It’s a superb examination of how we behave in a friendship compared to how we think of ourselves in said friendship, all told through this changing world of game crafting. While I’m not entirely sure what the developers wanted me to take away, I had my own personal thoughts at the game’s ending, and I’m sure so will you.