Review: Her Story

By Dave Neumann 03 Jul 2015 0
Your window to the world Your window to the world

After playing Her Story for a week now, I'm not sure I can classify what I've been doing as "playing". I'm not really sure that Her Story is a game. It doesn't have a goal or an ending that I've found, and even when I thought I was done, it turns out there are still many, many video clips I've yet to see. I'm left wondering if I should keep digging or have I learned all that I need to know?

The worst part is that telling you anything about the game would be akin to being that jackass Game of Thrones fan who's read the books and can't stop ruining it for the viewers who haven't. Anything I say about the story will be spoilerific. What I can tell you is that Her Story is exactly what the title says, a story told by a woman. The story is told over seven different interviews that have been chopped up into bite sized pieces which can only be accessed a bit at a time. It's like mixing seven different jigsaw puzzles together and trying to put them all back together again.

It's unlike anything I've ever experienced on my iPad.

The interface into this world is a simple one, a Windows 3.1-esque OS with one open window and a few other scattered icons. Developer Sam Barlow really sells the look and feel of the game by simulating a CRT screen, glare and all, as well as including the instructions as README.txt files on the desktop. There's even an Reversi clone you can play via a shortcut, as well as a recycle bin in which you can drag items to clean things up.

A database file shows the clips you've seen, and also the ones you're missing. A database file shows the clips you've seen, and also the ones you're missing.

The open window is called the L.O.G.I.C. Database which allows you to search for words or phrases and will bring up the relevant video clips. Every word spoken in the videos is captured, so you can search on sentences or names or even simple words like "the" or "I". Each search will bring up all the videos containing that word, but they ingeniously limit you to only viewing the first five videos. So, search for "the" and you'll learn that there are 164 videos with that word in it, but you can only view the first five. Figuring out how to view the remaining 159 videos is where the fun comes in.

As you string together videos and learn more about what's happening, you slowly begin to realize that you're the detective. You're not just watching for the story, but for clues. It's not just what's being said, but how it's said. It's what she's wearing in one interview vs. another. What is she drinking in this interview? Is that a bruise? You won't notice it at first, but eventually you'll be noticing everything and trying to put it together like a True Detective junkie who read all of Robert W. Chambers' stuff just because it might be relevant (it wasn't).

Yep, pretty much. Yep, pretty much.

As the star of the entire project, Viva Siefert is phenomenal. I can't really tell you why she's so great without ruining some of the fun, but if you were worried that we'd be getting the same stiff, community theater-quality actors we saw when FMV was a thing in the 90's, you needn't. She carries the entire game on her shoulders and does a magnificent job, even during the scenes that seem a bit silly (I just can't believe the detectives would ask her to play a song on the guitar). You really feel like you know this character by the end of the game, even though you've only seen her in clips that run, at the most, 20-30 seconds long.

Quite possibly the greatest police interview ever. Quite possibly the greatest police interview ever.

It's not just Ms. Siefert, however. Everything about the presentation is right. The music is properly somber and just a little creepy, and every now and then the brightness on the screen will increase giving you quick, ghostlike glimpses of your in-game avatar. I'll be honest, the first time this happened it creeped me the hell out.

If Her Story has a downside, it's the understanding that it's a one-time deal. Once you discover all the secrets, there's no need to head back into this world. We can only hope that Sam Barlow is working on a Her Story 2, which I would buy without needing to hear the pitch.

Her Story is a unique experience. You've never played anything like this before, and might never get the chance to play anything like it again. Don't hesitate to pick this one up as soon as possible, just don't go spoiling it for anyone who hasn't played it yet.

Review: Her Story

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