Is Her Story Worth Listening To?

Her Story came out in mid-2015, and swept up awards for its unique narrative and style of gameplay. Since the game was on sale on Steam for a pretty reasonable $3, I decided to give it a shot. So, was Her Story worth listening to? Yes, the narrative is unique and it gives a great example of non-linear storytelling in video games. Was this worth the title of the best indie game of 2015? That's where Her Story becomes questionable.


Hmmm...something seems sketchy here.

Pros: 

Great Story Structure and Gameplay:

You're put into a story about a murder suspect. The player is plunged into the role of investigator and it's up to you to figure out the who, what, when, where and why. Like mentioned before, the actual narrative is excellent. The disassociation between all of the video clips makes it very interesting to put the pieces together. You may think that the story is going in one direction, then find another clip that completely destroys the theory you worked up a few minutes ago. It's addictive, and you have no choice but to keep on going if you want to figure out "her story."

The gameplay itself isn't conducive for finding all of the videos at once after typing in one word. It teases, and it doesn't give the player an immediate satisfaction in their tasks. The search engine for the computer only captures the first five entries (even if it's five out of sixty-plus entries) so you can't just skip down the list of videos and find everything in order. This forces the player to really listen and latch onto any word or phrase that could get them another lead. What helped with this process was tagging the videos for yourself and saving them in a timeline that is offered below the main search results. I tried to skirt the system by putting each of the videos in order by date and time as I found them, but after realizing how daunting it was and wasting time, I decided to just enjoy the juxtaposition of the story, which gave a better impact in the end. 


Spoiler alert? Check out some other searches before "lie detector."

This game is also graced with some very good acting. Viva Seifert carries this story. Because of certain inflections she placed on mundane words, or certain topics when the police questioned her and made her character fidget and uncomfortable, I was able to investigate searches with much more depth. For someone to be the singular character in the game is a big burden to carry, they set the tone of the gameplay and story, and Viva does it very successfully here. Even though there were some questionable lines and expressions, those seem to be mostly due to the short video formats and the way they were cut. Viva still pulls it all off very well. 

Great atmosphere:

Reminiscent of a 1995 Windows computer, the game does a great job of making you feel like a detective or investigator. One of my favorite, subtle, features of this game was when I discovered a very important clue, and the music would change from feeling like you're in a dull office, to feeling like you just found an important treasure. It gave me encouragement that I was close to finding this woman's secret. Other than some mini-games and Easter Eggs, I liked how there weren't too many distractions from your task of figuring out which videos to find and keywords to search.


Got a little distracted from my work...

Cons:


Repetitiveness:


The fact that this game acts like a search engine has its pros and cons. Many of the video clips you find do have some useful information, and many of them reveal that one key word you needed to find other clues and videos. However, this style got old very quickly. A lot of the videos are useless. I understand having some filler so portions of the story aren't revealed too quickly, but when the filler clips are 1-2 seconds long with the character just sitting there chewing her fingernails, it became a bit frustrating. This game is filled with enough dead ends if you can't find the next search term and many of these clips mentioned above don't help. Maybe I'm just impatient, but I don't like filler in TV shows, and I don't like it in a game like this.


My results a few hours into the game.

Meh, ending:

Overall, the ending is very unsatisfying. Not going to spoil much, but like expected with many indie games it's open-ended with a slight twist. If you took the time to really break down the story and put together the pieces, it's not that surprising, and honestly didn't have too much of an impact. I love playing unique indie games, and I understand this game is trying to make a statement in its simplicity. It allows for the player to be the smart one and have all of the control over the progression of the game. But to me, the least a game could do is make a player want to come back and discover more. Nothing drew me back after one play through and figuring out this puzzle, and the ending was the nail in the head.



Final Thoughts:

While I'm definitely one to appreciate a unique game, with different game play that also tries to make a statement, I find that Her Story falls short . Should it be crowned as the best indie game of 2015? No, that title belongs to games like Rocket League and Undertale. It's definitely a game to keep on your wish list, simply for an escape into something different from your typical video game for a few hours.

That being said, recent tweets by Sam Barlow revealed that a Her Story 2 was in the works, however it seems to be a completely separate story from the first one. At the very least, I'm interested to see if Her Story will expand into a series, and if the games will develop into something more than its first entry, with different scenarios and character-oriented stories.

Final Verdict:







Written by: Rae Swain
Check out my Twitter @Kraeraenyeh 
Also check out my Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/kraeraenyeh


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