Saturday, January 2, 2016

Dave Critiques - Her Story: Playing detective


[Hi there! Just a friendly reminder that this is a critique. I will be discussing the game for those who have completed it. If you haven’t, perhaps you should stop this video now, unless of course you’re still interested in what I have to say, and don’t mind the risk of spoilers.]

This is the first critique I have written based on a game played for one of my impressions videos. If you recall that video, I was unsure of whether Her Story had an ending, and it was that problem that served as an impediment to my playing it further (even though I loved the investigative nature of what was on offer). The solution to my problem was an easy one, Google. Yes, I used a larger search engine to work out information that would help me decide whether I would return to the game’s search engine. During my search I found that there is indeed an ending to the game. A chat program opens up once you have watched enough videos to have pieced together the mystery. Armed with this knowledge, I continued playing.

And I’m glad I did. For most of my initial playthrough, the short nature of the clips resulted in not really paying attention to what Hannah was saying. She had a friend named Eve she grew up with and they were close, she married Simon, and Simon is missing and/or dead. It was only when the main revelation in the game finally clicked (that Eve and Hannah are identical twins, and both are actually being interrogated throughout these clips) that I became heavily invested.

This is when I truly started playing detective. I opened up the notes program on my iPhone and lined out the timeline of the interviews. I searched out identifiers as to which interviews were with Hannah, and which were with Eve. Armed with this knowledge, I re-watched almost every single clip, filling in the timeline of these women leading up to what actually took place. One keyword I searched opened up a clip from a never before seen interview (I had been cataloging them mainly by what the women were wearing), and this blew my mind. Up to the end of my play, I only ever saw one other clip from that interview, so even though I feel I understand the story, there are huge gaps in my archival search. It was enough to open the chat program however.

When chit chat opens, it’s a marker for your progress. At this point you think you should have enough to work out what happened. As I did not (this was a while before I discovered the aforementioned revelation), my efforts to uncover the truth doubled, and I started tackling the search for keywords from different angles (including crime terms such as “alibi” and “motive”). During this search I linked things together, and then found a couple of clips that spell it out completely. I was ready to tell the chat program I had finished.

Once you’re satisfied and tell the person on the other end of the chat that this is the case, one final revelation is mentioned. Namely who you are, and why you were looking into this case in the first place. It’s a nice little coda to the story, and since all the information came from your own searches and your own piecing together of the facts, it feels oddly personal. The coda just acts to add to that feeling. Nothing overstays its welcome, and for a couple hours of work (which of course feels like play), I left Her Story immensely satisfied.

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