Her Story, an independent work by Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories writer Sam Barlow, is as different from conventional gameplay as it's possible to get. Faced with a series of police interviews with a woman whose husband is missing, the player must use keyword clues to unlock all of the clips and piece together the highly engrossing, somewhat ambiguous story of this enigmatic woman. Original, fascinating, and deeply engaging, Her Story is a fresh take on detective and adventure games like L. A. Noire.
Her Story Drags You Into a Captivating Crime Story
Interactive fiction at its finest tells stories that only work through media-like games. Her Story is one of these—the non-linear nature of the story is what allows for surprises and feelings of triumph when you find the keyword you need. To watch Her Story unfold in book or movie form wouldn't be the same; in game form, you'll find yourself returning to earlier clips with new insight, and the gradual discovery of twists and turns is best experienced by the guess and check method that is central to the game's mechanic.
Developer Sam Barlow has said that the game aims to give the player the ability to use the investigative mechanics of L. A. Noire and Phoenix Wright without the rigidity of those experiences. While you are still solving a case, there's no ability to interrogate, no evidence to find, and no action sequences to break it up. The investigative mechanics are refined and perfected, with most of the work being done in your own mind.
The influence of media-frenzy cases like those of Amanda Knox and Jodi Arias is also highly evident, as it's frighteningly easy to pass judgment early on in Her Story without the complete picture. The gradual uncovering of the plot is also reminiscent of things like Serial and The Jinx, where the deeper you get involved, the stranger the story becomes.
And like many real-life cases, the ending to Her Story is a little ambiguous, but probably not in the way you expect. By the end, you'll have solved the mystery of the fate of the woman's husband. You'll know her identity, her alibi, her potential motive, and a slew of other information. But that likely won't be enough—the internet is rife with theories about the game's ending, though the questions have little to do with the husband.
This is ambiguity done right. While you may never have your concrete conclusion, there's enough evidence to support several theories. Though a shocker discovered along the way might feel a little soap-opera-y, it holds together the intrigue of Her Story, and while you might be skeptical of it happening in real life, it works perfectly for this game.
Her Story's Simple Gameplay Has Exciting Results
Her Story is not a difficult game to play on its surface, but unearthing every clue and finding the connections to form a theory will take time and effort. You're tasked with sorting through a catalog of police interviews, using keywords to find more clips and piece together the story to your satisfaction. Each search only reveals five video clips, so more specific keywords will reward the player with more story.
Her Story is the kind of game where having a pen and paper handy will serve you well. Keeping track of the woman's shifting story is only part of the fun—the more you uncover, the more you'll want to pay attention to the nuances of Viva Seifert's acting, the occasional inconsistencies, and details that might seem superfluous at first, but reveal a much deeper puzzle to unlock.
The game is genius with its clues, reminding you that you are playing as a character with the occasional reflection in the computer screen of the person you inhabit. These flashes usually come after unlocking a particularly important piece of the puzzle, and, once the game has decided you've accumulated enough, you have the option to "end" the game for one final twist. But the search can continue on once it's over until you've unlocked every clip, allowing you to understand the entirety of the woman's story and form your own conclusions about the events surrounding her husband's disappearance.
Excellent Story and Unique Gameplay Make Her Story Almost Perfect
Her Story is an achievement in interactive storytelling that never spoon-feeds the player information, instead letting you do the digging yourself. When you discover a new clue, you might find yourself gasping aloud or triumphantly pumping your fist—it's that exciting. Games involving crime are usually focused on exploration and action, but this one is about discovery and paying attention to subtleties. While the shocking moment previously mentioned does require a bit of suspension of disbelief, it only feeds into the alternate theories fans are picking through, encouraging replays, detailed notes, and sharing experiences with others. For $5.99, a few hours of gameplay, and an endless amount of theorizing and discussions to be had, Her Story is an excellent investment for fans of adventure games, true crime stories, or just plain excellent storytelling.
Her Story is available now for PC, Mac, and iOS through Steam, GoG.com, and Humble Bundle for $5.99.