I’ve been playing the Mr Robot phone app game, 1.51exfiltrati0n.apk (.ipa on iOS), which would be fun if I wasn’t so worried that the damn thing crashed again. The game, from Night Sky Studio (partnered with Telltale Games) simulates a text messaging system.: you find a phone and start receiving texts on it. The gameplay is done through your responses to the texts. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book that way. A cool thing: although the game is called “Mr. Robot” on the app’s icon, the notifications on your actual phone come from “ECorp Messaging”, the faux-app inside the game.

While the game is described as a real time game, it’s actually just keyed off of timed events: you end a conversation with D, and then one hour later, E texts you. The frustrating thing is because these gaps exist, I don’t know if I’m waiting on the next message or if I’m in a strange game state where I can’t advance through the storyline.

As spoiler-free as I can be: I’m in a part of the game where E wants me to contact B and social engineer B to get them to do a Thing. B is being a real jerk about it, so right when I get a point where I’ve pressured B into doing the Thing, but it’s going to take a while for the Thing to get done, E texts me. “Where are we with the Thing?” E asks. My responses are something like “I couldn’t get B to do it.” (which isn’t true) and “Uh… yeah, sure.” (which is).

A then responds with “Really? Are you sure it went through?” and my only options are “No, I lied, I couldn’t do it” or “This is harder than I thought, sorry!” both of which simply doesn’t apply. Answering either one has A respond with how he’s going to fix it. And the game breaks.

Ignoring E and getting B back on track, and four hours later, E texts again with the same “Where are we with the Thing?” question and new answers I can provide.

In the meantime, I’ve been getting three different spam/alert texts. These all repeat — they’re apparently programmed to key off of E asking about the status of my social engineering efforts with B.

So it’s easy to get into a game state where you simply can’t advance. My first time with B, I got to the part where E was going to fix it and then nothing was received by the in-game app for twenty hours. So I had to restart.

Restarting doesn’t mean I was able to skip back to the point where things broke down. I still had to go through 48 hours of game play because of that time padding.

Now, I’ve gotten past B, am working on going through socially engineering subject C, and E, D, and R are asking for updates, and suddenly silence. It’s been like that for almost eighteen hours. On the app’s faux-messaging app home page, there’s a notification that I have a new entry in my contacts list but when I check the list, there’s nothing new.

And just as I type this: D texts with “I think you know what I’m going to ask you”. Twice. Nothing else. No response options.

Did slip into another dead-end game state? Will I have to restart and replay three days of game to get to this point, hopefully not locking into another game state where I cannot progress?[1]

A shame, because the content of Mr Robot is so well-written. I enjoy the silly stuff, like the group chat I somehow stumbled into or the notifications from dating sites about new matches. The writing magnificently captures the voice of the characters in the show that appear in the game. It’s good writing. It’s the programming has issues.

  1. I’m playing with the most-recent version whose release notes say they’ve fixed game breaking moments in B’s and C’s conversations, but I think I’m hitting them anyway. []

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