I’m a big fan of the productions of Telltale Games (like The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones). I am also a big fan of the critically acclaimed television show Mr. Robot. Imagine my surprise and delight when Telltale Games leaked that they were working on a Mr. Robot project. Fast forward one week, and the game itself is in my hands.
This game (in the style of an episode of the show) is formally titled “Mr. Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n” and either “.ipa” or “.apk” (depending on your iOS or Android platform), but no one would dare call it that. It has a lot going for it, taking place roughly between episodes 3 and 4 of the first season. Since we’re now watching the back half of the second season, there needs to be something fresh for the viewers who already know how this is going to turn out. In this case, we’re treated to an episode-style introduction. We’ll call it episode 1.35 (the game name 1.51 makes little sense here, given the episode timeline). Trust me; this game already suffers from enough identity issues based on inability to stick to the show’s conceit. It also styles itself as “E Corp Messenger”, but appears in the app drawer as “Mr. Robot.”
The premise is that you picked up a perfectly innocent-looking phone that Mr. Robot regular Darlene dropped on the street. Darlene (for those who don’t know) is a hacker with a larger-than-life personality and a sailor’s mouth to match. She berates you for having “stolen” her phone but refuses to allow you to return her property. There’s a mysterious file on the phone that she needs to recover, and for plot purposes, it must be done remotely. Throughout, you must now masquerade as Darlene as she guides you (lightly) through exploits like social engineering in preparation for the series’ iconic raid on Steel Mountain.
The gameplay itself jumps between tedious and thrilling. There are far too many touches that break the fourth wall. At the time of this writing (a day after release), there’s a persistent notification bug on both platforms; this makes it difficult or impossible to know when to actually play the game. An exceedingly long Unity splash screen reminds you every time you open the app that you’re playing a game and that it’s not really an instant messenger app as it appears. Once inside, though, it does seem like an actual messaging interface.
Text messages by various people and services pelt you, ranging from the library to a group of saucy friends. The content can be pretty dry (overdue library books and news reports) or spicy (profanity and illustrated penises). You’re never quite sure how or if to answer (nor as whom), but the game does narrow your response choices to three. These choices arrive at irregular intervals, and this exposes the most frustrating part of the game.
Comparisons and Experiences
I’ll digress here for a moment to compare 1.51exfiltrati0n to its closest gameplay experience: the Lifeline game series by Big Fish Games/3 Minute Games. If you’ve played one of these before, this is a very similar storytelling device. Lifeline is slightly less interactive; you have only the text interface (similar to a modern instant or text messenger dialogue) and occasionally a map. 1.51exfiltrati0n has multiple conversation threads and adds a contacts list that works to store information you’ve hacked and any files you’ve downloaded. This is a really good innovation, and I’m enjoying the interactivity.
Also shared by Lifeline is a time delay, which assumes that the fictional character on the other end of the conversation is doing something else in real-time. In every Lifeline game, you can eventually turn the delay off so that it doesn’t last for days on end. To be fair, you have to die first, and the creators don’t recommend it. No such feature exists for 1.51exfiltrati0n. Two days into playing I have no idea how much longer it will be before I can make headway. I have been waiting 17 hours for a character to respond. This is where the notification bug is particularly frustrating, as the game does not properly indicate when to pick it up again.
So far, I’m either a decent player (and can match the tone of what is expected), or the game simply does not allow you to spectacularly fail. If you can get past the premise (which falls apart under scrutiny) and want to enter the world of Mr. Robot as a participant for a few days (or maybe weeks, if this keeps up), this is a great game for you. If you’re looking for a fast paced, family friendly, action-oriented game that might teach you hacking skills, you’re likely to end up disappointed.
Mr. Robot:1.51exfiltratiOn is available now on the iOS App Store and the Google Play store for compatible Android-based devices. Acclaimed independent team Night School Studio developed the game in collaboration with the creative team behind Universal Cable Productions (UCP) and USA Network’s Emmy®-nominated series Mr. Robot.
Keep up-to-date with season 2 of Mr. Robot by following our weekly recaps.