In the last few years we have seen indie developers doing what some thought was impossible, bringing dead genres of games back into the public eye with a fresh coat of paint and a brand new perspective. We have seen the rise of point and clicks, huge action RPGs and the retro platformer renaissance, but one genre I never expected has come back in recent weeks, and that is all thanks to one game, Her Story.
Her Story is an FMV (Full Motion Video) mystery game, and yes, I did just say FMV in 2015. The FMV genre has not seen light since the 90s, with it dying out due to the rise of 3D graphics. Nobody had the need to hire actors to do the work they could be programming. Past FMV games are not considered as serious games, and with the hilariously bad Night Trap becoming the poster child for the genre, the public simply brushed it off as another embarrassing fad. Skip 25 years into the future, and Her Story is released as the premiere indie title from Sam Barlow, a former Konami employee, responsible for directing Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. With such a fascinating back catalogue, surely why would he be releasing a FMV title? Well, if you’re in any way into the indie scene, no doubt you will have been hearing about the mysterious, haunting, tense, gripping experience that is, Her Story.
Her Story opens with a simple UI of a computer scene, featuring a video viewing software, where you are tasked with typing in a series of keywords, resulting in a number of videos that are tagged with that word. As you begin watching these clips, you begin to unravel a mystery, which is far deeper than at face value. The clips are all short videos of a woman being interviewed in a police station, where you begin to learn that her husband, Simon, has been murdered. If I was to continue on, I would be spoiling the entire point of the game, falling deeper and deeper into a continuously bizarre, shocking and twisted tale of revenge, love and jealousy, all told by a single woman on a camera.
Many players and critics have asked the same question whenever discussing this game, what exactly is it? A horror game? A puzzle game? I would say that it is a mixture of both, as while the gameplay simply consists of the player entering various words into a database and watching the results, the puzzle element comes into place when you have to piece together which keywords are pointless, and which can become mind blowing revelations. The game, while not exactly pure horror per say, does give off a general sense of unease. This atmosphere is achieved via the UI, be it the musical interludes between video clips, or the flash of a face staring back in the screen, the game doesn’t want you to be comfortable, it wants you to be engrossed in a story, and stay there.
The key to figuring out the secret of Her Story is in the details. Everything in the game has been designed to be in the right spot for the player to piece together the mystery. You have to pay attention to everything in each clip, the woman’s clothing, the time and date, her hair style, movements, everything has been meticulously organized to lead you down a rabbit hole. While I am on the topic of the woman, Viva Seifert plays the role perfectly, portraying a seemingly sweet English woman who can change in an instant to display unnerving, almost psychopathic tendencies.
Her Story is many things. A sombre tale of loss, a way of using FMV clips in a serious manner, and above all else, a deeply thrilling experience. My play time ran me about 3 hours, with little to no replay value other then going back to see if you missed any plot points, I would say this is a one time story, best experienced in a single sitting. Sam Barlow has cemented himself as a name to look out for in the indie scene, as right off the bat he has created one of the most talked about, controversial and fascinating games of the year. By forcing players to find answers rather than simply giving them, he has created one of the best murder mystery games in recent memory.
A chilling experience that will make you think twice.