Top Critic Average
Like the terrific TV miniseries The Staircase that appears to have inspired it, Her Story is less about determining guilt than growing to understand a set of characters. That's more interesting than a guilty or not guilty verdict anyway: a verdict closes the book, while understanding leaves it open for further contemplation. And as a narrative and as a game, Her Story is worthy of much contemplation indeed.
Though the game is only a few hours long and its soundtrack occasionally relies too heavily on saccharine piano melodies, "Her Story" is a remarkable achievement in creating something which is personal, cinematic and playful. It's a work that's impossible to imagine as anything other than a video game, and one of the best I have played so far this year.
Her Story doesn't look like much, nor is it easy to do it justice through words alone, but it's nevertheless a game that's going to be talked about for years by anyone who takes the time to look below the surface.
You can't ever really know other people, after all. But the empathy and intimacy that Her Story evokes is a reminder that the strides we can make—incomplete and uncertain as they are—can be reward enough.
When all was said and done, I felt that my curiosity had been rewarded rather than rebuked. Her Story recognises that we have a habit of slowing down and craning our necks when we pass an accident, but it also trusts us to temper that urge with empathy. Maybe if we were separated from these events by a window and a motorway lane rather than a screen and impassable years, we'd slow down enough to pull someone out of harm's way.
The experience is admittedly different to that of a well-constructed detective novel, or carefully charted HBO thriller, but the effects are similar. You are captivated, manipulated and spun around by the plot. Perhaps, in an era where filmmakers so keenly play with chronology, and regularly leave conclusions unwrapped, we are prepared for this kind of patchwork narrative, which leaves you, mostly, to draw your own conclusion of what really happened by the end. Or perhaps it would always have worked this well. Regardless, Her Story is a singular, unfamiliar work, essential viewing for both filmmakers and game designers.
It's not a typical structure for a game, but the mechanics really do work in the context of the narrative. If you like the idea of an open-ended '90s murder mystery with no guarantee you'll find a solid answer to its mysteries, then I can't recommend this highly enough. Her Story is a spectacular video game, and one of the most gripping personal narratives I've experienced in some time.
This is a remarkable, progressive, absorbing game, one sure to prompt fervent discussion among its players, no two of whom will have shared the same experience. Your actions and deductions may not lead to a virtual arrest or conviction, but the curiosity of your inner Columbo will surely have been sated.
In summary, Her Story is likely worth playing if only because it is so profoundly different. When you throw in solid writing, passable acting, and the need for players to reach their own conclusions about what happened, it comes together exceptionally well.
An astounding performance by Viva Seifert, immaculate writing by Sam Barlow and a completely innovative concept cement Her Story as one of the most solid and mesmerising releases this year.
Her Story is a captivating experiment in stripped down storytelling and the best use of FMV that I've ever had the good fortune to encounter. It's a story that we get to build, and thus, despite the way that it sometimes keeps players at a distance, Her Story becomes Our Story. By obsessing over clips and trying to put them in order, trying to make sense of them all, we become embroiled in the story and can make it fit our own theories. It's unique, singular and will take a long time to stop bouncing around inside my head.
Her Story is a distinctive indie game with revolutionary gameplay. While it does have a bit of a learning curve at the start, it's incredibly rewarding in how the unpredictable story reveals.
The genius of Her Story is right in its title: every detail and feature of its existence, from the presentation, to the script, to the symbolism of the built-in Reversi mini-game, is included in service to its female lead's story. The end result is probably the most holistic narrative-driven game since The Stanley Parable. If the FMV genre is destined for a renaissance, this game would be a fantastic example for developers to follow.
Don't let the FMV trappings of Her Story fool you; it uses this format as a tool, not a crutch. Sam Barlow's murder mystery uses pre-recorded video to its advantage, giving the experience a gritty, voyeuristic feel that only adds to its sense of intrigue. Simply put, you've never played a detective game like this before.
It takes games like Her Story to allow us to step back, realize what innovation and uniqueness actually look like and actually define what special is. This isn't the type of game that will push your reflexes to the brink, but let's be fair, not every game has to do that.
Ultimately, above all else, the game comes across as feeling wholly authentic – and that is a word you can attribute to only a small handful of games released in this day and age.
What Sam Barlow has delivered here is an amazingly fresh experience and while from the outside it may seem there's little here to appeal to the hardcore gamer, if you give it a moment, you'll realise just how enthralling being a detective can be.
If you're a fan of the crime genre, whether it's in videogame, television, film or book form, this is definitely a game for you. It's easy to pick up but difficult to put down and will leave you wanting to discuss and analyse it even when you're not playing.
It's been days since I finished the game, but I can't stop thinking about it. Her Story nails the dark, voyeuristic nature of true crime and the curiosity that follows.
A bold take on the long-forgotten FMV adventure genre, Her Story might be old-fashioned and light on what some might describe as traditional gameplay, but its sophisticated narrative and entertainingly novel take on detective work both allow it to soar far beyond the zenith of its seemingly outmoded remit.
Her Story's '90s aesthetic makes me feel nostalgic, and hearing the old computer boot up noises and seeing my silhouette rendered on the screen were nice touches. This Google Video-esque crime game isn't for the impatient or for those with short attention spans, but it rewards those who are willing to engage with its purposely-limited but complex delivery system.
Her Story wants to be different from every other game out there and in that it succeeds. I can honestly say that I've never played anything like it. It's not text adventure, it's not something I would call an FMV game or a point & click. It's in a genre all of its own and what a grubby, welcome little surprise it is.
Despite a very unconventional idea, or maybe just because of it, Her Story is a game that will engulf you with its story and atmosphere. It won't let you turn off the computer until you unveil the whole mystery.
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While the mystery and intrigue can only be obtained during the first play-through, Her Story makes use of a simplistic concept combined with FMV to create a personal and rich atmosphere.
True to this experience, Her Story finally operates with a sort of functional ambiguity under its veneer of objective presentation. The player is presented with a crime and a sole suspect. By the end, there is even a narrative of what exactly took place, but no archive is ever truly complete, and all the information is never really all the information. You will have questions at the end of Her Story. Making sure that they're the right ones may require figuring out exactly who is looking and how, though which camera and on which screen.
Being an unconventional indie game, 'Her Story' is like to illicit a strong response. The heavy use of FMV is also like to turn many away, and the interface isn't the friendliest. Fortunately, those that do play the game will find a special experience that easily justifies the price. This is definitely a "have you ever played it" kind of enduring title.
Like The Blair Witch Project, Her Story seems likely to foster a wave of imitators, such is its relative technical ease. However, writer Sam Barlow has certainly set the bar high with his reimagining of what a full-motion video game can be. Whatever it ushers in, Her Story is changing perceptions of what a game can be in the here and now. Case closed.
It needs something extra to it to really stand as something special, but Her Story still kept me hooked long enough to dig out its secrets, and that's definitely a success.
To summarise, the structure of Her Story can very easily lead to a disappointing experience, and by its nature a second playthrough does not solve that. Scoring this game was not easy - based solely on my playthrough, I would have to give it either two or three stars, as it was unsatisfying and I walked away feeling "Was that it....?". On the other hand, had I not stumbled onto the key information so early on, I could easily see myself loving this game and giving it an easy four stars. For that reason, I still recommend checking out Her Story, despite my grievances, but be warded that the experience may be somewhat inconsistent.
After playing Her Story, I can assuredly say that at no point did I ever once care about what happened to these characters in their wholly uninteresting and depressing lives. Her Story is implausible, which makes the intended emotional impact of the game impossible to experience because none of it is believable.