I’m at work trying to focus on production when E tells me I need to obtain someone’s login credentials. I look at her contact info…Lois Berry. She seems nice, very unassuming, without a care in the world. However, she’s questioning me on my job title and what the purpose of the contact is, so it’s time to put the pressure on her. After some coaxing and sweating bullets, I’m finally able to obtain those credentials I wanted. I go back to my desk at work and work for a little bit. Another text, this time from a tech manager and his son, who doesn’t know that daddy dearest likes to entertain ladies of the night in random hotel rooms. This is social engineering at its most meta — welcome to Mr.Robot: 1.51exfiltrati0n.
1.51exfiltrati0n is a tie-in developed by Night School Studios (you’ll remember them from Oxenfree) and published by Telltale Games that allows you to step into one of the main character’s shoes and really twist the arms of some powerful people. I won’t go into too much detail here, for fear of spoiling the surprise of the game, but it’s set at the crux of the first season and very much borrows from other text-based mobile adventures such as Lifeline, The Martian, etc.
Your contact you’re helping out will text you at random moments in the day and ask for updates on your progress with a certain person, or if you’ve found a certain file that’s currently unobtainable by either party. By requiring you to always check your phone and have the app open, Night School Studios recreates the feeling of the TV show in just a few seconds. There’s a feeling of someone over your shoulder, watching your every move, and the consequences of someone finding out what you’re doing on that tiny screen you have on. You’ll make an extra effort to hide what’s on your screen, and only keep the screen on when you need to tell someone what’s going on, or what they need to do for you.
Every time I heard the telltale (hardy har har) ding of my iPhone notifications going crazy, it was like someone stabbed me with a knife. Should I check my messages, just for a minute? Do I respond to the massive text threads I got from someone I don’t know? Or just wait until my next break? Every time, without fail (unless the app crashed), I’d reach down for my phone and answer it right away, if only for a moment.
However, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, unfortunately. On my iPhone 6S, I reguarly had to force close the app and restart the app just to get a notification, or sometimes the text bubbles I needed to select from wouldn’t show up until the sender was practically yelling at the top of their longs (in text form, at least) to answer them. Also, unlike most choice-based video games, your choices really don’t have that much of an impact on the overall arc of well,anything. Oh, you told the son about his dad’s prostitution? OK, well, just ask someone else to do it, or restart the game, because you didn’t go down the path the game wanted you to, and now you have to suffer for it.
If you’re looking for a fill of Mr. Robot but very meta, look no further, just don’t expect very much outside a sense of paranoia.