Nobody suspects a thing. This robot has got a good thing going.
Speaking Simulator is a hilarious experience where you try to frantically control a robot posing as a human across several peer-to-peer interactions. This comedy game is cut from the same delirious cloth as Octodad, but while Speaking Simulator matches the playful preposterousness of its cephalopod relative, the complications and constant time-restrictions of the mechanics make it less joyful for the player. This is still a goofy romp, but maybe one that’s less memorable.
Using light finger gymnastics control methods, you have to move your robotic humanoid’s face and mouth around to form words as he (or she) communicates with people at the workplace, restaurants, and more. Early on, it’s focused primarily on using one analog stick to move your mouth around while the other controls the slithery tongue inside the robot mouth that has to press buttons to form words. It’s low-key haunting as your metal behemoth talks, even more so if you mess up and its face frays and fire erupts.
Progression through different missions earns points that are used to upgrade your robot, adding in other features like eye movement. This adds to the complexity, making it a small miracle to not have your robot burst into flames near the final stages. There are moments where Speaking Simulator feels like a rhythm game; your task most of the time is reading the display prompts and acting quickly to execute them. In those moments, it’s frantic and crazy, but it also takes the focus away from the humor of the proceedings. Some of the interactions are bizarre and hilarious, but it’s hard to focus on them as much as you contort your potential future Terminator to pose as a human. That being said, Speaking Simulator is an enjoyable mess as a single-player party game. Whether on display in my living room or at an event like PAX (where it was playable at the recent PAX South), it’s hysterical watching the nonsense of this game play out.
The daffy silliness of Speaking Simulator is the beating heart of this video game robot. When that’s allowed to be the focus, laughter courses through its circuitry. Sometimes the wiring of this robot obscures the best parts, though, as the dizzying amounts of QWOP-esque systems draw the focus off the heart and onto the brain, where the controls and mechanics reside. This strained, faulty metaphor might best sum up Speaking Simulator, as this game tries its best but winds up being sloppy in a way that diverts attention from the most enjoyable parts.