Do you like to solve a good mystery, following up all leads until you feel you have a good understanding of the events that have occurred?
If so, then you will be absolutely gripped by Her Story, the new game by the designer and writer of the innovative Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. Although, perhaps calling it a game is a little misleading in the conventional sense. There are no levels, no high scores to beat, no enemies to kill. There’s not even a fail state.
Essentially an interactive movie where you have to find the scenes by using logical thought, Her Story is something that you experience rather than play. But when the experience is as thought provoking and absorbing as what’s on display here, who needs gameplay?
Plopped in front of a virtual PC screen without so much as an explanation, you find yourself seemingly logged into a police video archive with the word “Murder” entered as a search term. With one quick click of the search button, five short videos are presented to you, and with not much else to do apart from fiddle with some “readme” files and the recycle bin on your retro-looking desktop, you will undoubtedly begin to watch them. It’s with this that Her Story slowly but surely draws you into a mesmerising tale of intrigue and deception that will have you on tenterhooks until you’ve reached its conclusion.
Depicting a woman being interviewed regarding the disappearance of a man named Simon, the initial deluge of videos instantly grab your attention, thanks mainly to the great acting on display by actress Viva Seifert. Intrigued by the brief glimpse of her account of Simon’s disappearance, you quickly realize that Her Story is a lot like a puzzle in which you need to decipher what is being said in order to locate the next piece. For instance, after watching the first set of videos you may decide to search for the term “Simon” to find any videos that mention him. If you strike it lucky and your search returns with results, viewing those videos may give you a lead as to what your next search should be. Soon you’ll find yourself searching for things such as the name of Simon’s employer or his friends, ever hopeful that with each search you’ll uncover another bit of information that unravels the mystery of his disappearance.
Whilst searches indicate the exact number of hits for any specific search term, only the first five results are ever displayed, requiring you to sometimes get creative in order to narrow your search down and find videos that you have not yet seen. Putting strings of words with quotation marks can help considerably for example, forcing the search to look for exact matches. Videos which you consider to be crucial to solving the mystery or that you simply want further quick access to can be added a small pool on the main page of the archive for convenience, which is handy when you want to watch a string of videos or when one contains a myriad of leads for you to act upon. Eventually you will inevitably lose momentum with your searches, and whilst this can be a little disheartening, you will find yourself desperately reviewing videos and reaching deep into the recesses of your mind in order to find inspiration that may lead you to the next clue.
Barebones and all the better for it, Her Story’s strength lies in the fact that it avoids exposition. Very little here is handed to you on a plate or explained. Every twist and turn you discover feels like an achievement; like you’ve just made a major breakthrough in a case that has remained inexplicably unsolved. Even once you’ve unravelled enough of the mystery for it to prompt you to bring it to a chilling conclusion via an impromptu chat message, you’ll have questions. There’ll probably still be a large number of the videos you still haven’t discovered too, although a handy little database app available on your virtual desktop will help you keep track.
Her Story is quite frankly a triumph of design. Providing an experience like no other, it captivates you with its realism, gripping you firmly in your seat until you think it has nothing left to give. Admittedly, this will probably only be for a few hours, but the effect the experience has on you will undoubtedly last far longer. It may be a stretch of the imagination to call this a video game in the traditional sense, but rest assured: it pushes the medium of interactive storytelling to new heights and is an absolutely essential purchase for any budding sleuth out there.