Platform: PC (Also onMac/iOS)
You will like this if you enjoyed: The Ace Attorney series, Papers Please
Her Story is quite unlike any other game I have ever played. It’s nothing fancy really, but if you like storytelling in games, this will probably be right up your street as it’s mostly just piecing together a story. It’s a text adventure game, with lots of videos. The player watches a video, listens to what the lady says in it, and then searches for one or two keywords featured in the video. For example, the game searches for “Murder” to start. Then, having listened to the five clips that appear- ranging from descriptions of how “I would never murder him” to “Nobody would want to murder him” to “You can’t arrest me,” you can then move on to looking for clips containing the word “arrest.” These then reveal that “I sometimes drive too fast, you can arrest me for that if you like” and, later, “how can you arrest someone who doesn’t exist?” The cryptic nature of each tiny clip makes the story fragmented, but it helps to put on your trenchcoat and get out a notebook in real life to write down anything interesting the woman in the videotape reveals.
Upon discovering a particularly shocking clip and then returning to the game’s virtual Windows 3.1/95 inspired desktop, the music seems to reach a dramatic crescendo. I was unable to tell if it really was, or if my senses had been alerted and I had been dragged further into the game’s version of a hellish 1994 for this unfortunate lady and her relatives. The faux desktop graphics are purposefully extremely ugly as they mimic a computer which has been in storage since 1999, and the videos themselves are rather plain and seem to have been filmed on a VHS camcorder. The gameplay of listening to the lady chat about seemingly irrelevant stuff can be quite irritating at times, but as I mentioned you are essentially roleplaying as a bit of a detective (or to be more precise, as someone who is looking into the past- as the detective’s questions are lost, the player must try to think of the possible answers to questions that were asked long ago) and so it is easy to dismiss the boring parts as part of the gameplay experience.
The game itself is only about two hours long to get the gist of the story. The more skeptical reader might say this is to take advantage of Steam’s new refund policy, but I think it is because this game is essentially an interactive version of the time-honoured tradition of British detective shows such as Foyle’s War and Midsomer Murders, although obviously much lower budget. Where the thrill of those programmes comes from guessing the true story of the murder, the viewer has no real input on the story. Here, developer Sam Barlow has successfully thought of a way to involve the player in Her Story’s plot-unravelling, without it being too apparent that they are still playing a heavily scripted video game: for the most part, the only interaction you get (typing) gives the player the freedom to type anything they wish. It might not be the most exciting game around, but for less than a fiver this yarn is worth trying.
Play it for: The shock of discovering the story’s big twists
Pro: Breaks new ground in game storytelling, or at least not that seen for many years
Con: Can sometimes seem to drag on and lose your interest