By: Quinn Potter
If you have been frustrated by the passivity of watching inept interviews on crime-show dramas, this is your call to action. Feel like you can do a better job interrogating, reading suspects’ expressions, or sorting through data to discover the truth? Start downloading Her Story now.
This intriguing logic puzzle is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. The mystery is the woman who has been interviewed over a series of days at the police station. The enigma is how to access what she knows without being able to actually question her.
All controls are quite simple and easy to master. The interview files have been converted from old tapes, so the commands are appropriately basic. Click the “Read Me” and “REALLY Read Me” text files for basic instructions. Click the rubbish bin to discover tossed items. Click the dialogue box with the videos to enter a search term and start viewing snippets of the interviews.
As explained in the files, you can enter a one- or multi-word search term. You can also enter specific quotes from the transcript. (Show the video subtitles by clicking them on inside the small toolbox located in the video dialogue window). Once a video is playing, you can use a mouse or computer touchpad to pause, fast forward, or reverse the interview.
If you feel that a clip has valuable information, set it aside for future reference by clicking “Add to Session.” In addition, you can label clips with your own “User Tags” to pinpoint key terms, people, or events on a timeline.
The South East Constabulary of Portsmouth has accessed archived footage from the Homicide and Serious Crime department. The tapes available consist of a series of interviews with a woman at a police station over the course of a few weeks in 1994. Of course, some footage may have been lost in the flood of ’97, some sections may not have been transferred to the new format in ’99, and at least one file is gone – but what good is a crime story without a few missing pieces?
Having said all that, the graphics are well done. Video footage is appropriately grainy, fluorescent lights of the station flicker in the reflection of the player’s computer screen, and the desktop layout is reminiscent of an older, stagnant computer screen. (None of the immersive, gesture-based swiping, handling, or moving of paper files as seen in D4, but all the more authentic for it.)
Sound is well-executed. A soft, gentle piano cascades in the background as you are drawn into the story. The vintage keyboard clicks, quiet whir of a disk, and image of an hourglass during searches are all great details. The flicker and zap of the police station’s fluorescent lights is a nice touch, too.
The key to the story is the “Her” in Her Story. Viva Seifert, a musician and actress, plays the lead. She presents a complex, layered character, but her performance can appear a bit muted at times. Strong writing gives the story enough twists and turns as it stands, but a little more emotional range would probably increase player engagement.
Her Story is a post-modern version of interrogation. You have a – well, honestly, I don’t even know what to call her – distraught spouse, witness, family member, suspect?
You have an unreliable narrator that has come to the police station to report that her husband is missing. You don’t know the rest of the story nor will you get it in clear, linear fashion. Instead, you have about a week’s worth of old interviews to sort through by entering key search terms. Every time there’s a hit on one of the terms you enter, snippets of these interviews will appear.
Like most games, there are levels of achievement to unlock. For example, if 15 videos appear as a result of your search, you will only have access to the first few until you have unlocked a few levels of play. You will quickly work up to unlocking five at a time, but these may be fragments of interviews from several days, so it’s going to take a pen and paper for you to discover a credible timeline of events.
The path you take to discovering the story will depend on the search terms you choose to enter, the order in which you enter them and the order in which you watch the videos. The final story that you piece together may leave you with at least two or three possible interpretations, depending on what you bring to the game as a reader, observer, player and person.
When you reach a certain level (about three hours), a “Chit Chat” bubble will appear. This is like an IM from a friend, asking if you know what happened and why. You may get a few more clues and decide to keep searching until you have filled every segment in the DB Checker (database tracker), or you may feel satisfied and choose to end here.
If you are determined to view every possible snippet of video, it may take 5-6 hours to finish. Even after you’ve seen all the videos, however, you will have additional questions. As in real life, you might want to discuss the game, review the evidence, reflect on or recast some of your first impressions – it’s up to you. The game will end when you decide that you are done with it and the questions you have will either be answered to your satisfaction or you will be satisfied in knowing there will be no answer.
Her Story is a nice addition to the narrative-based genre of gaming. It’s a nostalgic look back that’s surprisingly well suited for today’s modern world: personalized gameplay, multiple points of view, attention to detail, and crowd-sourcing (both for funding and for extended discussions after playing). For those who enjoy problem-solving games, this is a good one to have in your library.