Editor’s Note: Monsoon Lab was the Marketing Partner during the early launch of “Sara is Missing”. However they are not the developers of the game and are not involved in the next installment of “Sara is Missing”. The developers of the game are now known as Kaigan Games.
You find a phone belonging to a girl named Sara, and she’s missing. Now you need to massively invade her privacy to find her.
Named Sara Is Missing (SIM), this ingenious game that combines found footage with mobile gaming has taken the indie game scene by storm.
It boasts a realistic iPhone-like interface where you are able to interact with the game just like you would a real phone.
You can do everything from reply to Sara’s messages, comment on Sara’s poetry in the notes (probably entries from lead writer Buddy Anwardi), and even listen to her music as you scour through her messages, emails and pictures to Sherlock Holmes your way into finding her.
Your only guide through this spooky adventure is a sentient AI in Sara’s phone named IRIS (Read: Siri backwards) that seems to know more than it lets on.
It is a true shame that the game is not available on iOS yet, because the game really finds its home on a mobile device. Congratulations, Android users. You win this round.
And the best part in all of this: SIM was developed right here on Malaysian soil by Monsoon Lab.
With the overwhelming trend towards the ‘Based on a true story’ gimmick lately, Monsoon Lab did not take a bite of that low hanging fruit, and instead tried for a story that was truly their own – of course not without help.
“This game’s story is totally fictional. As for some elements in the game, the creative team did plenty of research based on real and fictional stories.
The Red Room curse was based on a Japanese urban legend, IRIS AI was inspired by HAL 9000 from Space Odyssey, the found footage style videos is from Blair Witch Project, and the witchcraft elements as well.” said Monsoon Lab.
Meet The Team
“While making the game, we are just a bunch of game developers wanting to do something really weird and crazy,”
This will be the maiden voyage for this particular team of people as a unit, but they are far from beginners.
Due to the style of the game, the team is divided into two key parts, the creative team and the development team.
The development team, of course, makes the game. They are the ones responsible for emulating the feel of a real smartphone, and the true heroes behind how realistic the game feels. Shahrizar is the producer, Shahazmi is the programmer and Jeremy Ooi is the Game designer
Then, we have the creative team. These are the people who added the found footage flavour to the game.
Ranging from scriptwriters to video production, this particular side fills in the gaps in Sara’s life, from the pictures she takes to the things she types. The creative team who wrote the script and did the video production are film makers and scripwriters Buddy Anwardi, Saqina Latif and Derek Mui.
Perhaps this will be the first of many partnerships for this interesting blend of people.
Malaysianisms (Spoiler Alert)
They’re Malaysian, and they definitely want everyone to know about it.
From the Malaysia-accented English in the videos, the Malaysian-style text-speak (without being illegible for our international friends) and ostensibly Asian names, Sara Is Missing feels almost like a secret love letter for Malaysians.
The most obvious hint however, are the coordinates given out at each of the endings. Yes, your choices do matter in this game. There are multiple endings.
Contrary to popular belief however, the location isn’t all about Karak Highway, the allegedly haunted stretch of road that earned its reputation from the string of vehicular deaths over the years.
“The location was Kampung Janda Baik, and is one of the locations that we wanted to shoot at if we have a bigger budget,” said Monsoon Lab to Vulcan Post.
“The location was always going to be Malaysia and we wanted to make sure the players and the world knows about it. We literally put Malaysia on the map.”
They also admitted that the Karak stories also did influence their choice in coordinates.
The Red Room (More Spoilers)
Does the above image seem familiar? Players of the game who went through the rapidly escalating plot will have seen IRIS describe the Red Room. And this was something that the creative team based a lot of the story on.
The Red Room is a Japanese urban legend that capitalises on the seemingly inevitable nature of popup ads some years ago. They say that the Red Room is a popup ad that appears when you are surfing the internet. Even if you close the ad, you die.
The story goes that an internet-addicted Japanese boy heard about the Red Room from one of his friends. His curiosity led him to his computer to research the legend.
Suddenly, a small window appeared with a red background. Written in black were the words “Do you like-”
Every time the boy exits the window, it pops right back up. After numerous attempts, a child’s voice will finally complete the question.
“Do you like the red room?” it asks.
The screen then goes black, and a list of names appears in red. At the bottom of the list, the boy sees the name of his friend. The very same friend who told him about Red Room.
It is then said that the boy is found to have committed suicide, painting the room red with his blood.
Getting Sara’s Name Out There
The team is still surprised and humbled by the vast attention and praise they are getting for the game, but it was far from smooth sailing.
This current build of SIM is actually a short build demo that was created for itch.io’s Halloween Jam 2016 themed around one word – fear. It seems that SIM was just the dark horse to hit that sweet spot with gamers because it gained a lot of attention from there.
“I would say we got a lot of attention from our itch.io page first. There was a Halloween Game Jam and we are getting plenty of fans from there, eventually being the second most popular game overall,” said the team.
Encouraged by the attention, the team reached out to a bunch of YouTubers. Finally, one of their many lines managed to snag a big catch with Kubz Scouts, and the team always makes sure to highlight his name in their interviews as a show of appreciation for his exposure.
“It was a lot of hard work at first, but once you hit your first big one (for us was The Kubz Scouts), the other big ones will most likely follow, and everything becomes organic from there,”
Sara Is Missing has managed to snag two awards from the International Mobile Gaming Awards Southeast Asia at November 8 2016. The team received commendation for ‘Best Upcoming Game’ of the year, and ‘Jury’s Honorable Mention’.
It was a lot of hard work for the team at first, but it seems that the Monsoon season has passed for them now. We’re definitely looking forward to what Monsoon Lab will be doing next.
Sara Is Missing is still a short build Demo that was released for Halloween. The full product will possibly see a full release by early 2017. Currently the demo is available on Windows, Mac OS X, Android and Google Play, with an iOS release coming soon. Sara Is Missing was also recently greenlit for Steam.
Feature Image Credit: Monsoon Lab