July 7, 2015

Her Story

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Finally success! For quite some time I have been trying to find a computer game that my girlfriend will like. To The Moon and The Walking Dead Season 1 only held her attention for a matter of minutes. She completed Thomas Was Alone, but claimed not to enjoy the experience. Easy to believe considering her tense shoulders and sweating while playing. But now there is a game that she both finished and displayed happy entertainment during the game. The next day I was even asked if there was another episode or sequel to play next! What was the title that reached such lofty heights? Her Story.

Her Story is a Full Motion Video detective game. The basic idea is that the player is investigating a 20 year old murder by going back through seven police interview tapes. Each tape is cut up into short clips (of a few seconds through to a maximum couple of minutes) recording the response to a question that is never shown. The brilliant idea of the game is that the player can not just hit play and start watching the videos from the start, nor can they just jump to the end. Instead they can only interact with the game through a search box. Type in a word (or phrase) and if it appears in one of the clips then that clip will returned. Maybe. Only the first 5 clips in chronological order are viewable, although you can see the number of matches. So our first search, on the name of the person murdered, returned 61 clips, but we could only watch the first 5. To get the rest we had to refine our search or come at them from a different keyword (and direction). This is immensely clever, I wish I thought of it first! The user interface is simple, and intuitive to anyone who has used Google Search before (which is everyone, right?). At the same time there is still a challenge as most of the juicy stuff is in the later interviews.

It hard to say much more about the game as it is easily spoiled. Be assured that the story is good no matter what angle you eventually come at it. We certainly paid a great deal of attention to the dialogue, trying to glean every ounce of information. As we discovered more, we had to reconsider what was said earlier, as many of the clips can be interpreted in multiple ways (the benefit of not hearing the question). There are a few twists and many red herrings (I think). As time progressed we methodically worked our way through the clips following particular lines of investigation – until there it was, the solution! For us it took just under 2 hours (including a little bit of time after knowing what had happened to discover why it had happened). In the end we saw around 60% of the available clips. Looking online suggests most people take closer to 3 hours. I think we were a little lucky to finish that quickly – we were investigating a particular situation and the search term returned the final clip (as well as another with the info we actually intended). That that is the only concern I have with the game. It is possible that a player could see the crucial clips almost straight away, if they hit upon the right search terms. However, that is probably unlikely as the obvious search terms are included in many clips, so the most illuminating clips are not viewable until more refined search terms are known. I can’t be sure, but I strongly suspect that the interview text is minutely planned to avoid early spoiling – it certainly seemed that way.

This is a clever game with a great story – definitely worth playing.

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