[Review] Speaking Simulator – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Affable Games
  • Publisher: Affable Games
  • Release date: 30/1/2020
  • Price: £17.00 / $20.00
  • Review code provided by Affable Games

Why I Am Super Qualified for This, I Swear!

When I was in college and finishing my English degree there was one course that I dreaded attending more than most of the others. You might think it was something about dusty old literature or incomprehensible poems, but it was in fact a class that went by a rather unassuming name. History and Structure of the English Language. Pretty lofty name for an English linguistics class, huh? What it amounted to was learning about the way and reasons that the English language had changed with time and learning that while some of us might call the works of Shakespeare old English, they are actually early modern English, old English looking like a completely foreign language to what I am writing in now.

The other aspect to the class was learning the mechanics of how the English language is spoken, which was why I had flashbacks to that class the moment that I saw Speaking Simulator pop up onto the Eshop. Once I had pushed away the thoughts of the textbook still buried deep in the back of my closet, my thoughts became more curious until I just could not resist playing this game. Was it like what I had been taught in my class about the mechanics of speech? Little did I know exactly what I was getting into.

That Kind of Hard That You Love

Speaking Simulator cribs a lot from what I like to call the Exaggerated Simulator model of a game. You know the type, games like Goat Simulator where the fun is more in the ridiculous things that happen rather than any form of accuracy. A lot of people might call them a “meme game” because of their propensity to become popular on the streaming or YouTube gaming scenes, but I never thought that was an accurate name for them. Where Speaking Simulator pulls from the ideas is that the game play can be blindingly difficult at times but, in that game play there is a lot of laughs that depending on the person might make up for the frustration of the difficulty. I’m not going to try to call this the “Dark Souls of simulation games” since that’s an overused comparison but, I will admit that I did let some yelling fly towards my tv.

If you are someone who prefers story in a game and plays at easier difficulties just to experience that story, this one might not be for you. While I found the game to be a lot of fun, you might have to be willing to bang your head against a wall for a while if you get stuck on one of the levels and that isn’t for everyone. There were quite a few times where I had to put down my switch and walk away since I could only take that for so long. Alternating with other games was a must for me, but your experience will certainly vary depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing.

Why I Was Giggling

Actual footage of me trying to flirt

That might make it sound like I am saying that I don’t like this game, and that could not be further from the truth! Speaking Simulator is a lot of fun and had me laughing quite a lot between growling at my controller. This is one of those exaggerated simulation games that is less open world and more task oriented. There is a goal that you need to complete within each of the levels, essentially getting to the end of each conversation that you have. That’s a lot harder than it might initially sound thanks to you being… not human. You are an infiltrating robot communicating with humans in order to assimilate and if you’re thinking that might lead to some good comedy, you’re right!

The writing was my favorite aspect of this game. Each conversation is just off kilter enough to be funny without making it so off the walls that I was rolling my eyes. The only problem being that I was too busy speaking to really realize what I was saying to people until after it was said. While a robotic voice does speak as you manipulate things, I often wouldn’t know entirely what was said until I read it after finishing the segment. The comedy still worked just fine, though. It helps that scenarios that you have to speak in to progress are good and varied just like regular daily conversation. Most of them being mundane enough to be entirely relatable. I mean, I haven’t made a best man speech or tried to get people to vote me their union rep, but I have had to wiggle my way out of the doctor’s office and stumble my way through a job interview.

Failing Public Speaking Class

While I do adore the writing and the comedy of this game, I will admit that there were a few problems that do hold it back from being something that I will regularly go back to. There are times when it feels like there is a bit too much for me to handle between controlling the eyes and the mouth and the tongue and if I am smiling or not. The window for getting something done before people get suspicious of my actions felt just fine when I was only worrying about 1 or 2 things, but when I have to handle all of them at the same time that window feels far too short. So, some sentences could be vastly more difficult than others. I don’t mind fluctuating difficulty, but it could be rather irritating to breeze through one sentence and then halfway fill my suspicion bar with the next.

There is also the issue of things going wrong when you are speaking. Screwing up by pressing a red button in the mouth instead of green causes malfunctions, making your face do lots of weird things that you have likely noticed in the screenshots of this review. While this is fun and does cause some light distraction as a punishment for failure, sometimes the retribution could be too much. I had instances where the buttons in the mouth got knocked into a different angle than usual or started to piston up and down, which did of course make speaking more difficult. The problem comes in that I could never know if my screw up would make a button harder to press or just oil to drip out my noise.

The unpredictability was fun but could take away from the game at times, making me more angry with it. This was made all the more of a problem for me when simply closing the mouth could force the tongue against a red button, punishing me for doing what I was supposed to. It’s a silly comedy game so I don’t expect perfect controls out of it all the time, but the finicky aspects did sometimes get in the way of my fun.

The game runs just fine for the most part, though. I never felt like the controls were reversing on me or anything of that sort. The only major issue I had was a bug that came from pausing the game, in which everything went black and trying to unpause set all the menu’s settings to the minimum. Restarting the game solved the problem and nothing was really lost aside from that level’s progress, but it did make me more wary to pause the game in the middle of a level after that.

We Are All Robots

I was surprised that I was the most let down in the presentation of the game. While some parts were absolutely wonderful, others felt either lacking or banal. The music is a pretty repetitive and after a while I just shut it off. It was getting grinding in the way that listening to the music in a frustrating level of a game that you just can’t pass always does. It was worse that normal thanks to most of the music being something I had already heard somewhere else, though. 

If you have gotten this far in the review, it’s safe to say that you have seen a lot of what the visuals of this game have to offer. I do think the colors are bright and fun without being distracting, lending really well to a cartoonish look. That means that the main character having so much of a pudding face didn’t bother me as much as it normally would in a game like this. I mean, we’re supposed to be a kinda barely functional or passing robot anyway, right?

Where it actually bothered me was with the other characters in the game who you actually talk to. The environments always feel kind of empty, which I understand since they’re not the focus and this isn’t a serious game, but it does leave it feeling more like a plastic playset than anything else. The other characters also have the bad case of mash potato face going on as well. So, we blend in only because everyone else is scary and uncanny too? Great. They’re just… uncomfortable. Like something is wrong with all of them in a way that had me unnerved for the whole game. Maybe it was the fact that despite our English robo-voice, they were all speaking some kind of gibberish

Tongue Waggling

Is Speaking Simulator accurate to what it’s like to speak? No. That process is something that’s way to complex to game-ify, though they clearly did know what they were doing as mouth and tongue placements do try their best to mirror a circumstance similar to reality. At least not when I was waggling my mouth and making static noises due to an error. That’s okay, though, because this is a comedy game through and through. While it wasn’t technically very long (though my playthrough was due to how many times I had to try and try again), it was a fun ride while it lasted and I am glad for the laughs I got.

I won’t be surprised if this makes the circuit as a game made popular by a lot of YouTubers and streamers, since it lends itself really well to being funny to watch someone else scramble though. It’s just as fun to play on your own, though, if you’re up for the challenge of trying to communicate.

Pros

  • High comedy
  • Variety in “glitches”
  • Difficulty that is fun to engage with

Cons

  • Real glitches
  • People made of pudding
  • Finiky gameplay that could use a little more fine tuning

Verdict
Fun and frustrating all in one, Speaking Simulator brings laughs, but some will prefer just to watch.
3.5/5

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