Browsing through the playlists of famous gaming Youtubers like Markiplier and Jacksepticeye recently would lead to a walkthrough video about Sara Is Missing. Watching these superstars play can be pure joy as they screamed with fright and got awestruck by scenes of gore, but watching an analysis video about all little details in the game can only get one creeped out. To be exact, the horror of Sara Is Missing does not lie in jumpscares and murders.
Despite being influenced by Somi’s mobile simulation indie game Replica, developer Kaigan Games made Sara Is Missing to be a realistic horror mobile simulation game by incorporating real actors and a practical, high quality mobile user interface that makes players forget that they are playing a game. The players are put in the shoes of someone who unlocks a random smartphone that belongs to Sara. CEO Shah Rizar explained at Casual Connect Asia 2017 that, the idea of a random person being able to scan through someone’s phone is where the true horror is.
▲ Kaigan Games’ staff and CEO Shah Rizar (the rightmost) at Casual Connect Asia 2017
"Do you feel right or wrong doing that," Rizar said, "you want the players to ask more questions. True horror is from there."
The game also sheds some light on the horror of technology.
"Google now would suddenly suggest to me, 'hey, do you want to buy this movie' and I was like 'really, man! I was just talking about that!' "
Rizar believed humanity is heading toward an era where artificial intelligence (A.I.) can predict everything. The game’s incredibly human A.I. named IRIS was born under this belief. IRIS knows who the players are, what data is suspicious and literally everything. It is as if the players are talking to a real human being as well as being monitored, manipulated by it. Rizar thought that according to the trend right now, A.I. like IRIS might even become real in five years.
Not only have many overlooked the true horror of Sara Is Missing, the details that explain much more about the story have been missed too. Youtuber Night Mind is probably the one who started to make everyone become aware of the subtle hints given by the developer.
In the video, Night Mind highlighted a few things: IRIS is Irizu, and it watches the players through the camera, at the same time the victim Sara is not a trustable individual either. Regarding the point that IRIS and Irizu being the same person, Rizar refused to answer it directly but kind of hinted at its possibility. As for the second point, he was frank and said "yes" immediately for it is obviously hinted at the very beginning of the game when IRIS says the players are not Sara. Lastly, he addressed the personality of Sara.
"We want to show that Sara is not an angel." Rizar and his team do not want to make Sara like an innocent little girl who gets caught up in something bad due to pure bad luck, which will probably lead the players to sympathise with her so much that it washes away how she is in fact partially responsible for her death (never trust a party in the middle of nowhere and the person who organises it). Thus they created many contradictions between what she says and what she does. As nice as she appears to be, she never initiates any conversation with her friends. "She is just a normal human being," he concluded.
Then what about the message log date "30th February"? Is it intentional or just pure mistake?
Rizar bursted into laughter, "it is a mistake!"
Even though the game has only released a demo, reviews have been overwhelmingly good. Negative comments exist though, mostly about how the cult insists on the "now you must join us" thing and how the players are given very similar, limited options near the end of them game. People say all these snap them out of the experience. Rizar said there was an explanation, however.
▲ Review on Google Play
▲ Review on AppStore
The options the players have near the end of the game are weird. They are quite similar and they are not how one should feel under those circumstances. What the players choose is also interpreted differently in the actual conversation. The only explanation is that the players have been cursed as they have watched the so-called cursed video, and it is also hinted earlier when the phone acts like it has been attacked by malicious bug. Plus, the only way to show that the players’ silent character is cursed is through the options. This also leads the cult to insist on the "now you must join us" thing, because the cursed players really have become one of them, who are also affected by the curse to carry out the murders.
Sara Is Missing is still under development, and so many details are subject to changes. As mentioned before, it got so much exposure after some Youtube sensations played it. It somehow worried Rizar that these people will spoil the endings of such a story-driven puzzle experience when the full game comes out; however, he got quite positive when he thought about the complexity of the game.
"There are so many endings. It is really hard for them to get all endings!"
Oh well, sounds like Sara Is Missing will be creating a fuss on Youtube, again.
Sara is Missing will be out in 2017. Download the demo here.
Casual Connect Asia 2017
Date: 16th – 18th May, 2017
Venue: Hard Rock Hotel, 8 Sentosa Gateway, Sentosa Island, Singapore