Her Story review: Truth, lies and videotape
Her Story (PC/Mac/iOS); rating: 9.5/10: age: 18+
IMAGINE a blind man trying to complete a jigsaw. He can’t see the pieces and doesn't even know what the final picture looks like. Her Story is a bit like that.
Ingeniously written and cleverly staged, this murder-mystery is a piece of entertainment like no other. It challenges you to understand – not solve – the case of a woman suspected of killing her husband.
The imaginative twist lies in how it’s presented – you’re rifling through a large collection of digitised VHS video clips of the woman’s police interviews, trying to piece together what happened and why. The screen flickers with reflections and you’re stuck using an antiquated computer database with just the barest hint of where to start.
Footage can be viewed only by searching for any key words you can think of - such as “missing” or “weapon” - in her interviews. Even then you can see only the first five clips of any given search.
Hence the idea of a video jigsaw. You don’t really know what you’re looking for but each clip may lead you to another nugget of information, possibly rewarding you with a new bit of film that fills in the picture a little more. But you’re always stumbling from one non-chronological clip to the next, your theories constantly being upended. A pen and paper becomes an essential tool as you note connections, ideas and words that might dig further into the chain of events.
Smartly scripted and designed by Sam Barlow, who created two entries in the chilling Silent Hill series, the story goes to some dark places as it explores the primal motivations of human nature.
Her Story just wouldn’t work without the assured performance as the accused woman of actress Viva Seifert, the only person we see on-screen. With an ambiguous, nuanced portrayal that is by turns nervy, perplexing and eerie, Seifert commands your attention.
Objectively, the game’s structure is founded on contrivance. Why are the interviews sliced into clips as short as a few seconds, for instance? The game also withholds some relevant background on your own character until near the end, something that would have informed your searching.
But you can ignore such qualms because the interactive fiction feels so alive, casting you as both a detective and a fascinated observer at once. Costing only €5, Her Story is an inspired slice of storytelling, both fresh and haunting.