In Song of Farca, you have to experience everything through a computer screen, which is something that feels very familiar in the age of working from home and endless Zoom calls. Sadly, unlike hero Isabella Song, my days involved more spreadsheets, less catching serial killers and spying on goat-obsessed heiresses. She’s a hacker under house arrest, called on by various people to help investigate their gruesome and ghastly cases.
Straight away the UI of the game will catch your eye. It splits the screen in two, with Izzy and her dog Scooter pottering around her apartment in the top half, and Izzy’s computer on the bottom. You can only control what happens through her computer, but there’s just something humanizing about seeing her grab a snack or looking out of her window before she wanders over to her desk. It helps to see her that way too, because you’re going to be doing a lot of shady stuff while you’re investigating. Invading people’s privacy by hacking security cameras, stalking their online presence, and operating in the greyest of moral areas.
But then the people she’s investigating aren’t exactly angels. There are the people stealing robots for eTerrier dogfights, blackmailers using someone’s previous sex work as collateral, cybernetically enhanced killers, and a family that makes Succession’s Roys look like the Brady Bunch. It’s these stories that make the game absolutely addictive, even when you’re hacking what feels like your sixteenth security camera or struggling to present the right evidence to someone in one of the game’s many video calls with persons of interest. The whole thing plays out against a backdrop of a near-future where technology companies, and those that know how to take advantage of their wares, wield all the power.
Izzy knows how to make the most of the loopholes that this world presents, and as well as using security cameras to give her access to people’s private spaces – each one a little logic puzzle where people might need to be distracted by a malfunctioning coffee machine or robot vacuum – to hack their laptops and phones, she can use her AI, Maurice, to analyze the evidence she finds. Photos of dead bodies, mysterious meals, electronic equipment, philosophy, Maurice is way better at all of those than Siri or Alexa.
Aside from her dog and her virtual buddy, Izzy also has a love interest in the focus of one of her cases, Jessica DeLapine. Her awkwardness in conversations with Jessica is endearing and horribly relatable and gives emotional weight to some of the decisions you’re forced to make that will shape the rest of the story. Of all the missions, tracking down the right gifts for Jessica using just Izzy’s tech skills is one of the lighter ones, but feels as high stakes as anything else in the game.
Song of Farca is one of those games that manages to pack a powerful punch even as it’s confining you to a small set of gameplay mechanics. There’s more than one moment when Izzy’s impotence at affecting anything that isn’t connected to the internet is thrown into stark clarity, and you wish there was a button to send her running out of the house, bashing a button on her phone to call an Uber – or the less dystopian equivalent – ASAP.
Part visual novel, part police procedural, it’s one of those games that is easy to miss among the wealth of indies on Steam but is absolutely worth diving into. You might not always feel like a hacker badass, you might get stuck on more than one of the cases, but you won’t have played anything quite like Song of Farca before.
Song of Farca is out now on PC, and you can try the first case for free.