Her Story is the new video game from Sam Barlow, creator of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Aisle. A crime fiction game with non-linear storytelling, Her Story revolves around a police database full of live-action video footage. It stars Viva Seifert, actress and one half of the band Joe Gideon and the Shark.
Title: Her Story | Developer: Sam Barrow | Publisher: Sam Barrow | Release Date: June 24th, 2015 | Genre: Detective Mystery | Style: FMV | Platform: Steam | Source: Self-Purchased | Starred Review
Her Story Review
Trying to create an intriguing detective story in a game world is notoriously difficult. You have a few options such as conversation branches, finding clues, etc. It’s hard to do that within the confines of a game. In a movie the director plants clues throughout to either allow the viewer to pick up on them and try to figure it out on their own. Again, though, if the characters in the movie are behind the viewer it can make those characters seem, well, not the brightest. The same goes for detective fiction. You can pick up clues throughout but the reader (or viewer) should be relatively on par with the fictional detective.
In movies and books the clues planted can be really subtle. For some reason, in games, that subtlety is lost and no matter how good of a detective game you’re playing it can feel like you are being led through the clues and, in trying to put you in the shoes of the detective, there’s just not much for you to detect for yourself.
I can’t say that Her Story preempts this but it does make you feel as though you are truly figuring it out for yourself. Her Story presents you with a murder. A man was murdered in his home and his wife is a suspect. You are tasked with watching her interview footage and putting the pieces together into a cohesive order. You start with one or two clips and you have to watch them carefully to pick up keywords that you enter into an in-game search engine to bring up other videos related to those keywords. Sometimes there might one, or none, and other times it will bring up more but you can only view 6 at a time. So you’ll need to refine your keywords to focus the search on those.
It sounds complicated but it’s not, really. You really do have to watch them carefully and pay attention to the only character on-screen, Hannah. And here I have to give huge credit to Viva Seifert. She carries the whole game and her acting is top-notch. It always fits the scene and she does an excellent job with the emotions displayed, some of them very intense. I will not say anything about the story except for it drew me in and kept me wanting to figure out what to look for to learn more. More of what happened, why it happened and who was at fault. Her Story is full of twists and turns and it is very rewarding when you figure something out, enter the keywords to reach for more, and bring up a whole new cache of videos to explore.
Which brings me to the only ‘flaw’ of the game. And whether or not it’s a flaw is strictly going to be up to the player. The game is really more of an interactive story. Your input is finding the right keywords, entering those, and using your brain to figure out which words are important and which aren’t. And I can see some people not getting into that as much.
But damned if you don’t feel smart figuring it out.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.