In a way, aren’t we all Speaking Simulator‘s horrifically awkward robot who wants to destroy humanity? Don’t we all sometimes feel like a bystander in our own conversations, watching stupid words tumble out of our mouths like we’re witnessing a car crash? Haven’t we all wished we could rewind an ill-advised joke, or resit a job interview where our brain exploded?
Speaking Simulator is about moving a robot’s mouth to create words that help convince humans it’s one of them. You’ll take Karen from HR out on a date and ask her to inform you which ethanol beverage she requires. You’ll fumble a job interview after accidentally garbling binary code. The robot ultimately wants to destroy all human life, and to do that, he must assimilate with them. Aside from the genocide bit, his desire to want to appear affable despite his awful mechanical brain is something most of us can sympathize with.
You control the robot throughout several missions, most of which place it in mundane meetings or arbitrary conversations you have to navigate by controlling its face. You’ll press buttons located inside its mouth to get it to say words while maneuvering its jaw to simulate the illusion that it’s talking. You’ll also take control of its eyes to maintain eye contact, drag a slider to alter its expression, and generally tinker around with your face in the hopes of appearing human.
Playing Speaking Simulator was like being in control of myself while public speaking; the words are in my head, but they aren’t quite making their way out. I feel like my mouth has been moving for 15 minutes, but nothing of importance has exited it. I am standing in front of people who are watching as I malfunction, and they are politely pretending that everything is fine.
It’s essentially Anxiety: The Video Game, only the real-world feeling of fucking up a conversation so badly that you feel non-human is replaced by an actual non-human fucking up conversations. You’ll struggle to press a green button with your tongue before the timer runs out, and your eyeball will pop out of your head. You’ll maintain eye contact for too long and smoke will start pluming out of your ears, while your nose spins in circles on your face.
Speaking Simulator Review | Paranoid android
It follows in the footsteps of other deliberately janky ‘simulator’ games such as Surgeon Simulator and Job Simulator, albeit with added existential dread. Playing on PC (it’s also available on the Switch) you’ll use WASD to control your tongue in a separate mouth-cam, pressing one of three buttons when they light up green. Your mouse is used to open, close, and pucker your mouth, along with dragging sliders that help further express emotion. Every time you speak, you’ll be given a timer, with you having to move your mouth and waggle your tongue correctly before that timer depletes. If it does, your suspicion meter rises, and causing too much alarm will ultimately cause you to fail the level.
Levels are spread between various locations, from a fast-food restaurant through to a government building. It’s your mission in each to manipulate each human into thinking that you are one of them, including positioning yourself as a union rep to attempting to pass a medical exam. Each level consists of a conversation, with you having to move your mouth and waggle your tongue to complete your part of the discussion.
Amusingly, your covertly evil robot protagonist manages to charm almost everyone they come into contact with. A know-it-all young boss is impressed by your confidence, even if you’re quite clearly an android assigned to destroy civilization. A date finds your forthrightness appealing, with her going on to help you climb up the ladder in her workplace. An employee barely questions you storming in on him emptying his bowels, subserviently responding to you interrogating his shitting habits. It doesn’t take a great deal to manipulate your unwitting targets, even if your head literally explodes halfway through talking with them.
But while each of these situations is funny in theory, Speaking Simulator follows in a long line of simulator games in that it drags the joke on for far too long. As much of its humor is tied into its dialogue, painstakingly forcing the robot through each sentence swiftly becomes a chore, and it isn’t long before you’ve started to ignore what they’re saying in favor of just trying to get the job done as quickly as possible.
Speaking Simulator Review | Final Verdict
At least with games like Surgeon Simulator, your actions are the punchline. In Speaking Simulator, you’ve already seen the joke by way of the onscreen text, but you’re tasked with desperately trying to get your robot to hurry up and say it. Yet this process is irritating and unintuitive, with your robot’s tongue rarely responding in the way you want it to, flopping carelessly towards the dangerous red buttons and routinely hindering your progress.
All attempts at humor are eventually squandered as you wrestle with your robot’s face, painstakingly trying to get them to complete a sentence before the timer runs out. You don’t get to focus on the animations as their android head explodes, nor do you get to enjoy the witty dialog. You just swivel your mouse and tap at your keyboard until you make your way to your next awful conversation.
Speaking Simulator is a fun idea that remained best on paper. It’s another “simulation” game that takes a joke and wears it thin, leaving not much room for enjoyment past the initial chuckle.