Browsing the Steam store, I stumbled over this game title, took a pause, and quickly moved back to look at the details. I couldn’t remember where I had heard chatter about this game, but the name sparked a memory and I immediately remembered that whoever had been talking about it was very excited. It made it worth checking out. A glance over the synopsis, a reminder that I’d probably heard about it when it was looking for funding, and a look at some user reviews completely sold me. The game, developed by Sam Barlow, launched on Steam June 24th, 2015 to quite a bit of buzz.
Perfect. A brand new game that sounded absolutely fascinating.
“Her Story grants players access to a police database of archived video footage that covers seven interviews from 1994 in which a British woman is interviewed by detectives about her missing husband.”
Three hours of sorting through video evidence and watching my way through every last video clip leaves me both thoroughly entertained and finally ready to say goodnight to this game. It’s pretty straightforward. You sit in front of an older computer screen, a simple desktop and database open to you. The database contains all of the video footage from interviews conducted with a woman whose husband has gone missing. By using keywords to navigate the videos and discover new tidbits, it’s your job to find your way to the truth behind the case.
Each clip leads you further into the story, but it’s your job to play detective and pick up on keywords that will lead you to the next revelation. The game is non-linear, so you’ll find yourself making discoveries or watching clips and confessions that may seem to come from nowhere–and then it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. As Barlow writes, ” It’s a unique way to interact with a narrative, a sculptural way of viewing a story — and something that can only be done interactively.” Each clip forms a piece of the story, a huge puzzle that doesn’t completely make sense without all of its’ pieces. Sure, some clips pack more of a punch than others, but no matter how small each clip provides insight that will eventually be helpful as you seek to solve the mystery.
The game is set up to make you really feel like you’re hunched over this 90’s esque computer, typing fervently in hopes of unraveling the mystery that is Simon Smith’s disappearance. The screen flickers with a terrible (and familiar) glare, and passing flashing lights illuminate the character’s face on the screen every so often, providing players with a chilling reminder that they are on the outside looking in, a stranger seeking to understand this unknown woman’s life. It’s no HQ graphics design, but as soon as it loaded I was painfully and thoroughly reminded of my first gaming experiences on a computer with a curved screen that distorted lines and cast an awful glare when the lamp got moved two inches to the left, which earns this game full marks for the replication.
The storyline is fun and interesting, even when some of the hints are a little heavy-handed. Still, there were several good surprises and a slew of twists that, even if you guessed what might be coming, were well timed and delivered in the videos. The video evidence itself is a series of live-action footage starring actress Viva Seifert, a detail that allows the game to achieve a unique blend of surreal immersion. It’s an interesting experience, mostly because the game is designed to follow your train of thought, unfolding at the pace you yourself set. Digging deeper requires active thinking and participation on the player’s end, and what piques your interest will create a different gameplay experience to anyone else’s. Whether you grab a pen and paper to jot down keywords as the woman talks about it onscreen or key in concepts you believe to be important, finding your way into the depths of this tale is bound to be an adventure.
This game is great for those looking for a short but thorough jaunt through the world of FMV gaming, since playthrough time clocks in around a leisurely two hours. Achieving 100% completion took me just under 3 hours of playtime. This is wonderful for me, since I was able to play a game that was immersive, interesting, and let me leave my game session feeling like I had accomplished something. $5.00 well spent.