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How to make friends online: Buddy Simulator 1984

After a couple initial delays and setbacks, the indie horror game I covered several months ago, Buddy Simulator 1984 by Not a Sailor Studio, released on February 18th, 2021. After a promising demo and enticing trailers, let’s see what the release has in store for us! For the purposes of writing this (and not getting sucked into playing the game for 12 hours straight) I will be writing about my experiences with the first 2 hours of gameplay. As of writing this, it’s unclear how much more gameplay there will be, but my hopes are high! 

Buddy Simulator
All images are courtesy of Not a Sailor Studios

The beginning of the game is actually very similar to the initial demo release, with a couple notable differences which keep things fresh for those like me who checked out the demo pre-release. Most notably, instead of playing a fill-in-the-blank style game for game [4] of the original ROM, you are instead greeted with what looks like a shopping receipt. While not very interactable, it is an interesting choice, and I look forward to seeing what it may mean later in the game or for potential storytelling and lore purposes. 

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In addition, it seems that the text adventure section has received a couple puzzle changes and tweaks, further reinforcing the really ‘wrong’ elements of the environment, where your buddy just doesn’t quite understand how to make a game which isn’t really scary or threatening. But the main excitement is when your buddy revamps the game once again with pixel RPG graphics, remaking parts of the text-adventure, now in a space explorable by your little ghostly avatar. 

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This also marks the start of the truly new content separate from what we saw in the demo. Things seem to start subtly going wrong for our buddy, with small mentions of how their coding seems to be a little off and objects aren’t where they left them, forcing us off the beaten path more and more. In fact, a lot of the errors so far seem tied to this dog-like creature who is adamantly referred to by whatever pet name we chose earlier, even if we didn’t choose a dog to begin with. For example, in my run, I chose my dream pet as my current pet, George the cat. This is clearly not George.

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We can then go and explore the town to the North, which is full of quirky, charming characters who also manage to be rather off-putting when interrogated further. The jolly music which plays everywhere will cut out, as if the characters themselves feel that it’s no longer appropriate for the subject matter. Our buddy is all for it though 🙂

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This also marks a significant increase in the ominous glitches, again triggered by our “dog,” typically after finishing a NPC quest. These clearly hint at a larger problem either in the programming of the ROM or a potential problem with our buddy themself, as they seem completely unaware of these glitches. In fact, they get worried, as we seem to pause for long periods of time from their perspective, worrying that we don’t like they’re game, or are becoming bored with it. The glitches are also rather disturbing, often with flashing lights, so do take caution if you have light sensitivity when playing this game, as they tend to flash and appear quickly. While I couldn’t screenshot all of them, here is one of the glitch moments on display below.

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It’s around this time that our buddy is starting to get really worried, offering to skip ahead to the final quest if we’re not having fun. And somehow, I feel like this final quest isn’t so final, considering the increase of strange occurrences leading to this point. This game is chock-full of secrets, more than I could find in just a 2-hour play through; likely, I’ll require numerous playthroughs to find them all, as many seem to depend on earlier choices made when playing. My game will continue to have purple objects, because I said it was my favorite color, and our buddy is very clear that they will remember our decisions, often taking away the other options after we make our choice for a given interaction.

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This game gives me strong Doki Doki Literature Club vibes, being self-aware enough to reference the 4th wall and game mechanics regularly, with an AI buddy who is absolutely obsessed with us, and so far I am here for it. So if you don’t hear back from me for a while… well, I guess I’m just hanging out with my good computer buddy. I’m sure nothing will go wrong. 


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