An indie game published by Sam Barlow, Her Story is a murder mystery like no other. It differs in a sense that you as a player are given full freedom to piece together the main character’s story by finding video clips and analyse them without any other narrative. It offers an interesting gameplay experience successfully blurring the line between traditional, objective-oriented gameplay and interactive and cinematic gaming experience. I dare to say Her Story is neither. Rather, it represents its own genre, which bases upon players freely creating their own narrative.
In Her Story, the player is presented with a dated, flickering computer screen without any additional instructions of how to proceed. The only clue the player has is a police record database with the search term: MURDER. The player can view the search results, which are short, live action video clips of the subject, and play the guessing game of what has happened. As the player watches the haphazardly presented snippets of a woman named Hannah, many more clues can be collected from them and used as search terms. The enigmatic story of the woman also unravels piece by piece: Hannah is being questioned for the murder of her husband, but not everything is as it seems. Straight away, Hannah introduces herself to the player by her name being a palindrome, same word forwards and backwards. This also happens to be a major plot point in the game. Little clues like this construct this marvellously crafted piece of art and keep players on their toes till the end.
The prime suspect.
My experience with Her Story was unlike anything before. At first, its premise not to provide any clearly set narrative was a little worrying, but the way Barlow composed the gameplay really won me over. It’s a lot of fun to search for clues and piece together the puzzle yourself rather than someone else doing it for you. The short video clips are narratively coherent enough and leave aspects to imagination. Not everything is spoon-fed, and the player must actively pay attention to the contents of the clips to figure out correct key terms to proceed. Fortunately, the police database has some nifty notetaking features to keep track of what has already been searched.
On the other hand, Her Story is a really short treat. My playthrough lasted for a little over an hour, perhaps. The player does have the opportunity to go through all the video clips after the game has “officially” ended, but it doesn’t really add the replay value, since you get a decent picture of what has happened the first time around. That said, it is still fun to try out different key terms and continue to uncover various little details about the plot.
All in all, I really appreciated this little piece of gem. I think it’s a wonderful game for any mystery lovers without being a huge time-sinker. I highly recommend this game for anyone interested.
Publisher: Sam Barlow
Developer: Sam Barlow
Platforms: iOS, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Android
Release date: iOS, Windows, macOS: 24.6.2015; Android: 25.6.2016
Genres: Interactive movie
Sources: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews/her-story, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Her_Story_(video_game). Screenshots are from my own gameplay.