Wednesday, July 8, 2015

IOS Review #97: Her Story

Title: Her Story
Developer: Sam Barlow
Platforms: IOS Universal, PC, Mac
Price: $4.99
With the advent of games like Proteus, Gone Home, and other experiences, the question of what exactly constitutes a game has been brought up often over the past few years. I imagine Her Story will be another experience brought up when that discussion comes up. Whether you classify it as a game, a visual novel, interactive fiction, or something else, one thing remains constant: Her Story offers a mature and gripping experience.
Discussing Her Story's story in detail would do a disservice to the narrative it weaves. The core idea is that you're watching a series of interviews of a woman telling her story to the police. These interviews are divided into numerous short clips, and by typing keywords and phrases into the game's wonderful recreation of a 90's era desktop, you can search for new videos to learn more about the woman and her situation.

Ideally I'd classify Her Story as a narrative adventure. In adventure games, you collect items, and typically need to figure out how and when to use them to solve puzzles and continue. Her Story is that cycle, distilled to its purest form. Your items you gather are the parts of a story, and you're trying to discover the truth. Through deduction and learning more details, you gather new keywords and phrases to unlock more of Her Story's narrative puzzle box.
There's no hand-holding here. In other detective games, such as LA Noire or The Trace, you might have a notes screen that highlights clues, connections, and important videos, or maybe a hint system, Her Story strips all out those extraneous elements. The onus is on the player to piece together the mystery; it's a completely cerebral experience. There isn't even a definite end; you finish when you feel satisfied that you've learned enough.

Her Story's non-linear structure is also very unique. How you piece together the story could be different from how someone else might. You may stumble on some revelation earlier or later than another person, or learn the context of a clip later in the story. But no matter how you approach the story, Viva Seifert anchors the tale with her excellent performance.
Her Story might not appeal to everyone, but if you're looking for a unique experience that tackles a mature and gripping story in a way not often seen in games, it's well worth checking out.
Her Story is available to purchase for $4.99.


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