Her Story is a unique, innovative little title that’s well worth a few dollars and hours if you’re looking for something very different.
It stars (strange for a videogame, I know) Viva Seifert as Hannah Smith, a woman being interviewed by the police about the murder of her husband. And this isn’t through motion capture, but actual full motion video. That’s right, its real videos in a game. Well, a series of videos. The game opens up on the screen of a Windows 95 computer, which gives you access to a police database of interview clips and nothing else. The main gameplay conceit of Her Story is a strange, yet fascinating one. The police database is corrupted in some way and so the only way to find new clips is to type a keyword into a search bar, which brings up the first five clips that contain the keyword. That’s right, you basically complete Her Story by googling. This is an ingenious and unique gameplay idea and is the main reason that Her Story is worth a look. You watch an interview clip, pick up on keywords, and then search those words which leads you to more clips and so on. Not only is this great in the way it makes you feel like a real detective slowly piecing the story together, but its also simple and intuitive – basically everyone under the age of 50 knows how googling works.
What vaguely unfolds out of those clips is a jumbled and fragmented story centred around a familiar but still compelling main concept. Its tightly written by the creator of the game Sam Barlow, and garners a remarkably natural performance from Viva Seifert (considering she was required to effectively talk to a camera like a person for several hours). The story itself is really fascinating not only in the organic discovery of it, but also through the many twists you slowly begin to uncover. Unfortunately due to its fragmented nature there are only a handful of emotional and character beats, which deadens the impact the story may have had if told traditionally. But in doing so would not only weaken the story (as it does possess a number of old clichés) but would also remove the novelty this technique possesses. That being said however, the way Barlow chooses to end the story is a bit of an anti-climax. In this regard, the nature of the game works against it as there’s no real feasible way to end it effectively without altering from the mechanics established. So it just ends. No fanfare. No final denouement. It doesn’t ruin the story but it certainly made for a muted end credits roll.
Yes Her Story is not perfect, but its worth checking out for its innovation and uniqueness alone. On top of that however, it still possesses a fascinating story, an impressive central performance and an ingenious gameplay mechanic and so in many ways it should be commended. Her Story is one well worth listening to.
Casual Gamers: Highly Recommended
Hardcore Gamers: Recommended
Indie Gamers: Must-play