As a video game director, Sam Barlow has a short but impressive record, having worked on games such as Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Aisle. He is arguably a master of the narrative art form. His latest creation, Her Story, is a game where players go back through an archaic looking police database and try to piece together the story of a woman, who was the only source of information on her missing husband, Simon.
The gameplay here is very simple. You are tasked with searching through a police database for clips of an interview conducted in 1994 for a missing man named Simon. The player has to search for keywords to find more video clips and to gradually piece the story, her story, together.
While this might sound boring to some, the story is powerful enough to draw you in almost immediately. The suspect is played by actress Viva Seifert, who does an excellent job in every single short FMV you pull up.
From the get-go it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the writing. Being an FMV-based game, it is up to the player to discover everything by picking up keywords, names, locations and clues. There are little breadcrumbs scattered all over the proverbial carpet and you’ll spend your time picking them up with your bare hands and grumbling. The nice thing is, each breadcrumb has a fascinating little story to tell. It harkens back to that innate desire in a lot of players when it comes to wanting to solve a mystery. People may disagree as to whether or not Her Story is truly a detective game, but it certainly does satisfy that desire. The dialogue delivered by Viva is especially good at catching the attention of the observant, with a few lines that made me anxious to dig deeper. Looking around the desktop and database programs of the computer also have a few cute little Easter eggs, which encourage you to engage with your surroundings to your heart’s content.
Each video clip is typically less than thirty seconds long, so that it never feels like much of a grind and doesn’t bog the player down in excessive dialogue. As much praise as could be lauded upon the actress, the best element of her performance was how absolutely real she seemed. The dialogue, her expressions, movement and mannerisms never felt like someone who hadn’t quite learned how to converse like a human (as can often be the case in video game characterisation). Viva Seifert is incredibly convincing, offering the kind of immersive quality that makes Her Story a unique experience.
The length of the game is ultimately in the hands of the player. Depending on your perception and observation, it might be relatively easy to blast through Her Story quickly, or it might take longer depending on how methodical you are. The game will provide a cue eventually when the player has met certain requirements to “reveal” the ending, of sorts. I personally do not want to spoil the game, the twist or anything to do with the story. Unfortunately, because Her Story is, well, a story driven game, that makes it a bit difficult to discuss or review without spoiling it.
What can be said however is this: This game is an experience, similar to how The Vanishing of Ethan Carter felt like an experience. There is an argument that the gameplay of Her Story is virtually non-existent and that it takes a backseat to the story. However, some games still work well as an overall experience, despite missing those elements that could be considered game-like. Some of these types of games work, some don’t, in the same manner that there are good and bad experiences. However, for its low price on Steam, Her Story is an experience that is easily recommended for anyone looking for something different. It uses FMVs to its advantage, the story is well-crafted and interesting and, overall, it gives players the chance to derive their own conclusions and what they can take away from the experience.
Her Story is an experience and I personally found it to be a very positive one. For those who are curious, the price is fair and it was brought to us by a legend. Make your own conclusions and piece together her story; simple, or complex, as that.
Are you experienced?
A legend delivers a narrative that is an experience more than it is a game.