Developed by Not a Sailor Studios as their debut indie title, Buddy Simulator 1984 is a new entry in the “meta” genre, similar to Undertale and Doki Doki Literature Club. If you’re brand new to this type of experience, you’re in for a real treat; you essentially play a game within a game, created by an AI entity serving as your “Buddy”. Its life purpose is to be your best friend and play various videogames with you. Eventually, it starts to create new titles once the initial ones get too boring, and that’s when things get out of hand.
Buddy Simulator takes place on an old CRT-style monitor, so the entire time you’ll be viewing a smaller virtual screen within your actual screen. The whole thing starts as a series of really simple games like Hangman and Guess the Number. Gradually, the games' variety and complexity increase as your Buddy tries to impress you, quickly evolving into a text-based RPG and so on. Buddy Simulator definitely has some horror elements and violence scattered throughout, so don’t be fooled by its innocent start. It’s not on the level of Doki Doki Literature Club, but there are enough jump scares and disturbing moments for this title to qualify as a genuine horror experience.
While basic, there’s a surprisingly entertaining RPG within Buddy Simulator. It includes exploration, puzzle solving, and turn-based combat. While I found the interactions with Buddy to be the most enjoyable parts of the game, the RPG elements are more than just simple filler. In combat, you’ll need to time button presses to block attacks and use simple strategies to manage status effects. Overall, there’s quite a bit of content — around six hours — with plenty of replayability and different endings. I’ve only experienced a single ending at this point… and it’s one of the “bad” ones, due to the negative tone. The finale you get is determined by how you interact with your Buddy throughout the playthrough.
Certain moments in the game are surprising, but it’s difficult to cover them here in detail without revealing any major spoilers. Just know that the RPG your Buddy creates has certain glitches that were accidentally overlooked by them. Also, all of the NPCs echo your Buddy’s thoughts, since after all, he did create them. One thing that really threw me off was encountering an actual bug that probably wasn’t meant to be there. It caused everything to become a white block and rendered Buddy Simulator completely unplayable. Normally, I would just restart a game if this happened or try to troubleshoot it. However, since Buddy Simulator often throws intentional bugs at you, I just assumed this was one of those and tried to keep progressing for about 30 minutes by walking around blindly. Eventually, I restarted the game entirely and it was back to normal. I’m still not completely sure if this was meant to happen, but I couldn’t find it occurring in any other playthroughs or walkthroughs.
There are a few other annoyances here and there. For example, you’ll often need to type out a response using a virtual keyboard, rather than just choosing from two or three options. This is pretty unnecessary when answering a “yes” or “no” question, which you’ll see plenty of. It’s particularly frustrating during the text adventure sequence since you need to type out every single action. I did play on Switch though, and I’d assume you can type normally on PC. Sometimes the game gets cut off at the edges and you can’t fully read on-screen text too. Fortunately, there’s always enough visible to get the gist of what’s being said.
Buddy Simulator 1984 is an extremely innovative indie game and I was excited to see what surprises it had in store. Spooky moments catch you off guard and clever twists remind you that this is more than a classic RPG. It sounds weird, but the game is also substantial enough for you to develop a complicated relationship with your Buddy. I’d definitely recommend playing on PC over Switch due to the typing issue, but this is a solid title worth checking out.
Buddy Simulator 1984 (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Buddy Simulator is an innovative indie adventure set in an RPG world with some clever meta moments. It could use some quality-of-life improvements and bug squashing, but still hits the mark from start to finish.