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Down the rabbithole of Alfa-Arkiv

A new iOS game seems to be reviving the five-year-old Junko Junsui ARG that had apparently vanished from the web.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Nearly five years ago, a mysterious series of videos emerged: about a project to genetically modify humans; about a strange, mother-oriented religious sect called The Sisterhood of the Pure; and "live feeds" of a girl called Rhea, captive in a cell, held by private Russian military organisation Alfa-Tsentre. It lasted just a short while before disappearing, leaving its followers bewildered.

It may, however, have returned, with the arrival of iPad game Alfa-Arkiv. On the surface, it seems to be a game about uncovering the chain of events that resulted in a young woman named Rhea Aliveya, part of a terrorist organisation known as the Liberation Army of Dagestan, being held in a cell by a Russian military organisation.

It's actually pretty fascinating to read through the files, but it seems large parts of the game take place... elsewhere. So far, we have visited a couple of pages on a Wikileaks website, a page that seems to have been appended to the Russian Ministry of Justice's official website, the KGB Belarus official homepage, and the official web page for Alfa-Tsentr (which turned up an error on Whois). We also (perhaps unwisely, we can't tell) installed a Chrome extension and found a Facebook page supporting the Sisterhood.

To be honest, we're not entirely sure what it is we're doing. The integration of in-game and out-of-game content is so seamless, and whoever made it has been putting it together for such a long time, we're almost not entirely sure it's a game at all.

If it is a game, it's masterfully done, delivering a sublime mix of heebie-jeebies and supreme curiosity to find out more. If it's not, please send help.