When I was a kid, I was a bookworm. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and sometimes, if a book was particularly interesting, I’d ferret it away under the covers, hide my flashlight under my pillow during the day, and stay up late that night finding out how it ended.
I still remember the excitement I’d feel getting to sneak in some extra time with a story I loved. To me, the sign of a good narrative game is the same. It’s something you walk away from still thinking about, and something you’ll sometimes sacrifice a little sleep to sneak in more time with. When I first played the demo for Song of Farca during my coverage of LudoNarraCon, I liked it, but didn’t realize just how hooked I’d become. Having finished this detective thriller, though, I can honestly say Song of Farca is one of the best games I’ve played all year.
In Song of Farca, you play as Isabella Song, someone who’s brilliant with tech but fuzzy on rules. She’s a PI who’s had a few too many run-ins with law enforcement and has landed herself under house arrest for a good long while as a result. Isabella, or “Izy” as she’s more commonly called, is a smart, sardonic single woman with a penchant for crimesolving, hacking and bots/drones. Obviously, the house arrest situation presents some challenges as far as standard sleuthing, but Izy’s got some workarounds.
Rather than having everything happen in the confines of the narrative, Song of Farca uses Izy’s talent for tech to open up a few minigame options, like hacking routers, computers, tablets, phones and cameras as well as controlling a legion of bug bots and drones that help her do her detecting without leaving her computer chair. These translate into a unique gameplay element that turns out to be rather fun. For each case, locations unlock on the map, and you can remotely snoop around them by figuring out how to navigate through each place and its obstacles. Remote sleuthing has some inherent challenges, and you’ll need to ensure your bugbot or drone are not detected, which leaves room for some interesting puzzles. Sometimes, you’ll need to create a distraction by knocking something over in another room to draw people out, sneak through ducts or even start a fire. Other times, you’ll need to find objects or decipher video clues by playing a memory style game in which you enhance video evidence by recalling details about the objects in it.
When you start out Song of Farca, you’re on some relatively innocuous cases for clients that don’t seem particularly questionable, but pretty quickly things devolve and you find that Farca, the city-state you occupy, is in a state of division. Big corporations hide even bigger and darker secrets, organized crime runs rampant and the wealthy profit from the suffering lower and middle classes. There’s a rising movement against the government and big corporations but it has its own dark sides. It’s a complex narrative where you’re truly never sure who to trust, and I think this is one of Song of Farca’s biggest strengths. Instead of going with one giant overarching case, or several smaller unrelated ones, Song of Farca chooses to give you a wide range of cases that might seem unrelated but all have some common threads.
Every character plays an important part in the narrative, as well, and choices you make in regards to each person can serve to help or hinder you later on, completely changing the course of the story in some cases. Song of Farca is full of complex problems that go beyond whodunit and ask you to make decisions that aren’t cut-and-dried, and I appreciated the way the game made you think about morals and ethics when it came to your decisions, and didn’t necessarily condemn you for any particular choice you made. The further I got into the game, the higher the stakes got, and the more interesting the story became. Every time I thought I had reached the end of a particular story thread, it’d turn out to be part of something bigger, and darker, that I had to pursue. This was how Song of Farca turned from just another narrative game I was reviewing to the kind of thing I couldn’t put down. Even the minigames didn’t throw me off the immersion, and oftentimes I’d find myself more frantically trying to hack into computers if the situation was more dire.
If you’re a sucker for a good detective yarn, Song of Farca is one you shouldn’t miss. I loved it for its story, humor, and its soundtrack as well as the way it worked in a little bit of puzzle gameplay, and by the end of it all, I was still curious what would happen in the world I’d left behind. For me, it’s the mark of a truly impressive game, and one I’d heartily recommend.
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