thu 24/09/2020

Her Story | reviews, news & interviews

Her Story

Her Story

The search bar as thrillingly brilliant videogame

'Her Story': Whose story?

If the interface is simple, the story it gradually reveals is anything but. Her Story is an absolutely stunning piece of interactive storytelling, taking in murder, identity, history, yet driven simply by you typing a word or two into a search bar. You're presented with a beautifully rendered and retro computer screen – the kind of thing you'd expect to see coppers in The Bill tapping into.

If the interface is simple, the story it gradually reveals is anything but. Her Story is an absolutely stunning piece of interactive storytelling, taking in murder, identity, history, yet driven simply by you typing a word or two into a search bar. You're presented with a beautifully rendered and retro computer screen – the kind of thing you'd expect to see coppers in The Bill tapping into. You simply decide what "search term(s)" you want, then hit go, and in return you get videos.

When the game starts, the search term is "murder" and you have access to the first five videos returned, of many – all featuring a young woman. In fact every video in the game features the same woman, played beautifully by actress Viva Seifert (also one half of band Joe Gideon and the Shark).

Her Story - from Silent Hill writer Sam BarlowFrom those five videos, you learn that her partner, Simon, may have been murdered and she may have done it. From there, your job is to mine the videos for terms – clues – and rebuild a story from fragments.

Often, a search term arrived at innocuously or randomly through Viva's fragments of interview, her talking, avoiding looking at the camera, such as "mirror", or "cat-flap" or "miscarriage", reveal new angles or further fragments of the story. Sometimes they leap the story forward, offering surprise. Sometimes they give you a tantalising hint of something, but without the context to progress.

Mirrors, palindromes, codes, history, identity, concealment, shame, guilt – Her Story covers a lot of quite dark ground in what is a relatively short game to play. And it covers it well – script, acting, mood, pacing are excellent throughout. But what elevates the design of this game to brilliance is the way ex-Silent Hill game writer Sam Barlow has developed a system that works both despite and because of the sidestepping, fragmentary and confusing way the game can be played.

Sure, you can write down every word in every video and follow the steps linearly. But it's unlikely that you will – pretty soon, intuitive leaps and repeated ideas gently nudge you to move forward, or sideways, or backwards in the story faster.

In totality, the twisted story unravels itself. The search eventually is over. Although even then, there are questions unanswered. Most pressing of all, is why aren't all narrative games this good?

Simon Munk on Twitter

Mirrors, palindromes, codes, history, identity, concealment, shame, guilt – 'Her Story' covers a lot of quite dark ground

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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