Jessika | Nintendo Switch Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Full Motion Video games or FMV is an area with which I do not have much experience. I haven’t really played all too many FMV games, but I have seen people stream such games on Twitch, so I was quite intrigued when Jessika fell on my lap. As a German speaker as well, I was encouraged to make Jessika my first FMV experience and was more than excited to do so. Jessika was originally released on Windows PC, with the Nintendo Switch version made available on the 19th August 2021. Developed by TriTrie Games and published by Assemble Entertainment, this game’s main language is German, so I decided to play the game with German audio and English subtitles to get the experience from both perspectives. As I am not a fan of dubbed content, I avoided using English audio. For the purposes of this review, I focussed on gameplay on the Switch, with a very brief mention of the PC version as well.
You are working for a team called White Flower, which analyses the digital footprint of deceased people in the hope of delivering closure to their families. A text comes through from one of your work colleagues about a new job – you must investigate the digital past of Jessika, who has committed suicide, upon request of her father, which involves sifting through her files and video logs to uncover the reason for her death. You are also in communication with other members of your team through an app called “Wizzapp” (I see what you did there, game), have access to music, and receive regular email correspondence. The texts have a choice of dialogue options when responding, but I am unsure if this makes much of a contribution to the outcome of the game. The beginning of the game piqued my interest immediately, as you are greeted with the login screen of an operating system known as “yOS”. This is where you will get your password to set up and you can enter your own name as a username. Also worth strongly noting, a pop up will appear on your screen at this point informing the player that the content of this game is very strong with many references to drugs, alcohol, rape, and hate speech, so user discretion is definitely advised.
The user interface looks really interesting and is quite similar to the PC version. The exception would be that on the PC, you can see the background behind the screen of your device, so it gives you a sense of location, but on the Switch you rely on the ambiance noises as well as having to read through emails and texts to figure this out. It is also quite straightforward to use with the thumbstick available to move the cursor and the “A” button working to select items. There are also other buttons available to help you type and search quickly through the different key words, which become vital to unlock encrypted files. These files are colour coded depending on the various levels of encryption, with red files having the highest encryption level. There is nothing majorly difficult in decoding the files. All you need are a few key words and some patience. Once some of the lower-level files are unlocked, the more difficult ones become more available depending on which tags you enter. The issue I had with the files in this game was that there did not seem to have a concrete structure. The files are not automatically stored – you will have to favourite them if you want to look back on them, however there is no way to store them in order unless you discover them in order. This makes the connections between videos even more difficult, especially if you take a break from gameplay.
One of my favourite things about this game is the acting. The actress who played the titular character, Lisa Sophie Kusz, is an absolute delight, especially in later encrypted videos, once found. Kusz draws you in with her delivery and conviction and coupled with the heavy content which became prominent in later videos, left me speechless in a lot of cases. It is wonderful to see such talent appear in video games, so a huge round of applause for this casting decision and for the stunning script. If this was playing in chronological order, it would be an incredibly good storyline, which serves to shock and appal. Unfortunately, as the connections between videos were not all too clear, the jumbled-up nature took away from the potentially brilliant storyline. Also worth noting, while there is no gore involved, some scene descriptions are very graphic, and the use of language, while realistic, can be offensive. The delivery of the ending could also be improved as it came across so suddenly that it left me, and from looking at different forums, others, very perplexed.
The more you investigate further into Jessika’s video diary, glitches occur, which suddenly switches you to one of the other apps, accompanied by a shrill tone. While at the beginning, this seemed to be a great tension device, however after a while, it became extremely irritating, especially when you try to focus on the information in a video. The further into the game you are, the more likely that these glitches serve as an irritation rather than a scare. But this leads me to the major disappointment in this game. There are serious performance issues which need to be addressed immediately with the Switch version, as it is resulting in the game being unplayable. My game froze once while watching a video, which forced me to restart the software and redo some steps, as Autosave had kicked in 10 minutes beforehand. But the more serious issue is with the video quality. At the beginning, the videos seem to play OK, but as I continued through the game, the quality decreased severely, resulting in videos stuttering and lagging heavily. At first when I noticed this, I presumed it was part of the storyline as part of a tension device as explained earlier. However, the further I continued to play, the more frustrated I became, as without the script for each video, I would not have been able to understand what was being said, due to the lagging. It got to the point where I was on the verge of quitting the game in frustration, as these issues removed me emotionally from the game and made me lose my concentration.
Another disappointing factor of the game came with the translation and localisation. There appears to be some discrepancies in content and the translation is not consistent. Some areas had a clunky English translation attached, e.g. “Everybody cheers on me…”, “…but all your files are encrypted” instead it should be “…but all her files are encrypted”, or spelling errors, “Gulf” instead of “Golf” for instance. There were also capitalisation issues for words which were in the middle of a sentence – this was commonly found in the scripts of the videos, which due to the poor quality of the Switch performance, I had to overly rely on them. One or two images were partially translated with the remainder still in German, and there were other articles with no translation at all. One area I found this particularly irritating was the translation of text messages, where messages were jumbled up or written in a way which makes you believe one person was saying something, when it was in fact two people. Entering the name of the sender would have been optimal to add, as not everyone would be able to detect who said what.
All-in-all, I found the game’s premise to be very good, but the execution was unfortunately poor. The game runs a lot better on the PC, in comparison to the Switch version. The acting is fantastic and very convincing, and the story is harrowing, but the ending was incredibly poor as the disorganisation of the build-up, coupled with the poor performance on the Switch device, left me extremely puzzled, and I questioned if I experienced the end of the game. This game was not enjoyable for me, heavy content aside, and I believe there are a lot of areas which need improvement - so much so, I cannot say wholeheartedly that I would recommend people to purchase this game on the Switch without these issues being resolved.
Tina’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5.
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