Sara Is Missing is a horror game that takes place entirely on a stranger’s phone. While it never strays too far from horror clichés, it still manages to be pretty frightening, and takes full advantage of its limited format.
Horror movies often find fear in granular elements of life—an unclosed door, a barely heard whisper, or an oft repeated old wives tale become sources of genuine terror. Sara Is Missing is rooted in the coldness of unfamiliar technology. The titular Sara’s phone looks and works a lot like an iPhone, but is loaded with a creepy AI assistant called IRIS, and just that small twist on a familiar device makes it feel unsettling.
While the actual elements of the bare bones plot can feel a little corny, the way they are implemented in game bring them to life. There’s witches, a cult, human sacrifices and short videos that feel like a rip off of The Ring, but even when the camp dials itself up to eleven, Sara Is Missing can drag a scare out of it. Sara Is Missing is most scary when it messes with its own interface or established rules—like when the screen begins to glitch out, or when IRIS exhibits desires and needs beyond their Siri-like comportment. While the game certainly relies on jumpscares, it does also offer horror that lingers if you give it a chance.
Because Sara Is Missing is so short, it’s worth giving a try at least once: it made me jump out of my chair a couple times, playing it on a bright Tuesday morning.