Game – Her Story

Art © 2014 Sam Barlow

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m an odd sort of gamer.  I love tabletop games, and that’s an area where I can talk about with more authority.  But when it comes to video games, I’m much less knowledgeable or even capable about talking about (much less playing) the bit “AAA” games that get the headlines.  As my friends from college know, I’m much more of a button masher (which isn’t a completely terrible strategy when it comes to Super Smash Bros.), but that tends not to work when you’re flailing around in the world of first person shooters.  The Boy let me have a go one time playing “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds“, and it was ridiculous to watch, I’m sure.  I’m sure to an outsider I looked like I was playing QWOP,  and I might have done better if I hadn’t managed to get myself stuck between a wall, a table and some chairs.  Seriously – I managed to glitch on my first go.  This is not the kind of game I am made for.

Art © 2014 Sam Barlow

I’m much better at the “indie game with a storyline” thing.  Something that lets me move at my own pace, and in which I am less likely (or unable) to just die due to my own stupidity.  And that’s where today’s game comes in.  It actually seems to be ideally built for someone like me and my skill set.  But let me explain a little more.  Her Story is an indie game where you are reviewing video police interview files in a police computer (but only HER story, not the police questions).  There are seven interviews with a woman about the murder of her husband.  They aren’t in order.  They aren’t even easily accessible except by searching keywords.  You must piece together the story of what happened by finding all the videos, and then you’re done.  There’s no specific goal, there’s no timer.  You go at your own pace.  You make mistakes and you try again.  There are ways to cheat, but they are tedious.

Basically, I loved this game.  It seems written specifically for people like me who believe themselves to be good at piecing things together, and who are experts at searching.  The strategy that I used (which seems to be generally accepted online as the best one) is to go through each video, and then pick out the keywords from that which may re-appear in other videos, and label them in the metadata, saving that video so you know to go back to it again.  I made the mistake at one point of saving ALL the videos.  That’s too much.  Just save the ones that give you new leads.

How do you know how you’re doing?  The system has a database checker which will highlight the files you’ve seen.  You can see where they appear in the overall timeline, and you can try to find others that are near it based on what’s being told to you.  Or maybe you get ideas for things that may appear earlier or later in the story.  It’s like doing a puzzle when you don’t have the box lid to work from.  And it’s satisfying as you get towards the end in the same way.

Art © 2014 Sam Barlow

My total play time was just under 5 hours.  This was over the course of probably two weeks, so it was spread out in a few hour long sessions over that time.  I felt really good as I was playing for a while, and then I got towards the end.  All my obvious paths had dried up.  I tried some out of the box thinking which did yield results, but not enough.  And then I was stuck.  So I will admit to getting the last 10% or so of clips which were really just fill-ins – I knew the story and what had actually happened at that point, this was just completing the database tracker.  There’s a brute force method you can use to get pretty much any video, but I won’t detail it here.  You can use your own search skills to find out how to do it.  The end though – once you’re done, you’re given the option to say it – you’re asked, “Are you done?” and you can say yes or no.  As soon as you say “yes”…oof.  My mind was blown.  The developer had one last trick up their sleeve, and it was a doozy.  Well done.

Art © 2014 Sam Barlow

I’m not sure how I acquired this game (did I purchase it on Steam sale?  Get it from a Humble Bundle?), but it’s not an expensive one – $5.99, less than you would pay for a movie, and you get more time and enjoyment out of it than you would a movie as well.  And if it’s on the steam sale, then man, get it.  I think I even intrigued the Boy with my game, because it’s so quiet and deliberate, and he was interested in my progress.  Perhaps not a game for everyone, and especially not for those who require their games to have action and bloodshed, but thoughtful, compelling, and worth the time you put into it.

Details: Her Story, available for PC/Mac and in mobile formats.

2 Comment

  1. Ben says: Reply

    Next game you should check out is Undertale http://store.steampowered.com/app/391540/Undertale/
    Considered by many to be one of the best games in the past decade.

    1. maggie says: Reply

      It went on sale a little while ago on Steam, and I was trying to remember why I was going to buy it? In any case, I think it’s still on my Wishlist, and next time it’s on sale, I’ll snag it. 🙂

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