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REVIEW – Speaking Simulator

ARE YOU 100% HUMAN?

GREETINGS HUMAN READERS. HAVE YOU, LIKE ME, EXPERIENCED THE DIFFICULTY AND UNPLEASANTNESS OF REGULAR HUMAN INTERACTIONS THAT YOU PARTICIPATE IN BECAUSE YOU ARE A REGULAR HUMAN? WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A VIDEO GAME ABOUT THESE EXPERIENCES? OF COURSE, YOU WOULD, FELLOW HUMAN, MY RESEARCH INTO HUMANS INDICATES VIDEO GAMES ABOUT SIMULATING REAL LIFE EVENTS THAT COULD EASILY BE ACCOMPLISHED GOING OUTSIDE IS A VERY POPULAR GENRE.

Ahem–

So! Let’s take a look at Speaking Simulator from Australian studio, Affable Games!

Speaking in tongues

Speaking Simulator is a game I’ve kept an eye on over the last couple of PAX Aus events. They always have their booth with their latest game build, cute business cards that look like tongues, and a passion for explaining their game and watching people play it. The devs love of what they do as well as the concept got me hooked, and now it’s finally released, I was excited to take a look.

Speaking Simulator focuses on the player who takes the role of a recently created robot, given instructions to infiltrate human society through various scenarios. Going on a date with Karen from HR. Passing a mandatory medical exam. Marching into the public bathroom at work to demand more out of your co-worker who is just trying to get a little private time on the toilet. A lot of regular human scenarios for this absolutely regular human-robot.

The meat of the game revolves around controlling the mouth to make words. This is, surprisingly, very difficult to master. I played on Switch, so I’ll describe the controls and scenario of how I played it. The tongue is controlled via the left stick, with the mouth having several buttons in it that need to be pushed with the tongue to create certain sounds. Meanwhile, with the right stick, players are required to move the mouth both vertically and horizontally to also make the sounds. Both of these elements need to be controlled simultaneously, with players given a time limit to complete words and sounds before it raises suspicion.

On a failed syllable or word, which can be caused by making the wrong sound or not making sounds fast enough, suspicion is raised causing various malfunctions. Your eyes will start to spring out. Oil starts pouring out of everywhere. I think my nose came off at one point? It’s all perfectly normal responses to failing social interactions. It’s just a visible representation of how I feel every time I screw up a word or stutter.

As players level up, they gain access to upgrades which can be helpful things, like increasing tongue speed, or things to make the experience more complicated, like eye movement, eyebrow movement and facial expressions. Which, by the way, all have to be controlled at the same time as the mouth and tongue.

So, in any given level, you could be simultaneously pressing all kinds of buttons for each individual element of the face, all of which come with their own risks for more suspicion to be lumped on our totally human friend. It can get very hectic, very quickly.

Mouth sounds

The previously mentioned hectic gameplay is wildly fun to try and get a grip on, but it can also be wildly frustrating if multi-tasking isn’t your thing, combined with the, at times, finicky control system. The tongue control, in particular, suffers from not being quite right. It’s incredibly easy to glitch the tongue out, for example, at one point I glitched the tongue through not only the roof of the mouth, but I’m fairly sure it extended up and out through the skull, even though I couldn’t see this. It just looked very tall.

The tongue can also easily get caught on awkward angles of the mouth and button presses you’re sure that you made might not register. It can lead to some easy and frustrating game overs that will have you starting the level from the beginning.

Compounded on to that is the pressure of having to control other elements of the face at the same time, lest players continue to raise suspicion. Eye contact, but not too much. Smiling at the right moment. Waggling those eyebrows in an appropriately suggestive manner. It can be incredibly difficult to stop looking at someone when you’re trying to untangle your tongue from an angle that regular humans could not achieve.

Though without taking the glitchiness into account, the gameplay itself is a lot of fun if you’re the kind of person that can handle frantic, fast-paced gameplay. I, for one, had a lot of trouble with it. Checkpoints in longer conversations would help, but then again, real conversations don’t have checkpoints for when you explode and cause people to suspect you’re a robot. So, fair enough.

All in all, though, the final product of this little game that I’ve followed for years, is a delight and also an eerily relatable experience.

Speaking Simulator is out now for PC and Nintendo Switch.

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