There are some pretty fantastic aspects of gaming which have fallen by the wayside in recent years, and at this point nobody remembers them without wry, condescending pity or utter disdain. Bring up Full Motion Video, and everyone remembers the horrible opening movie to Resident Evil, or the campy cringe-fests of the Command and Conquer series. Text adventures, similarly, are a joke to many. But, my friends, it need not be this way.
Involving, engaging and disturbingly atmospheric, Her Story is the work of Sam Barlow, the creator behind Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Aisle. It uses FMV to tell a non-linear crime fiction tale, examining a woman’s testimony regarding her missing husband. The player is given a simple GUI, controlling the search functions of a crime database in an effort to piece together the truth of the matter by examining and re-examining her footage. It’s a very simple design. The player will start with a few video files to sift through, while the names, places and connected incidents she mentions can be searched to bring up new video files.
It didn’t take long for us to become deeply engrossed in the tale as we helped it unfold in one direction, before following a previous lead to flesh out her testimony more fully, and it allowed us to utilise a far greater level of analytical skill than we do in most other games. The non-linear nature of the story had us examining each of the video files over and over, as each new piece of knowledge became available to us, and Her Story offers what no other game does; giving players a taste of the unfolding, evolving nature of police procedure.
The writing in the game is superb; never once sacrificing realism or authenticity for cheap shock value, while the character herself (played by Viva Seifert, of Joe Gideon and The Shark) is presented in such a genuine way that we found ourselves fully immersed from the get-go, examining each video a number of times for telling changes of state in her behaviour and tone. There’s a lot to uncover here, and a number of different cases intertwine with one another to form a much larger whole, but we won’t spoil anything with our own theories.
As a piece of interactive fiction, Her Story is a welcome revival of a time where the main element of gaming took place in the psyche of the player, generating in-game progress and rewards for lateral thinking and acuity.
Her Story, set for a cross platform release, can be pre-ordered here, to get your name in the credits!