Critical Play: Mysteries

Her Story is an interactive film video game written and directed by Sam Barlow. In the game, the player searches and sorts through a database of video clips from fictional police interviews, and uses the clips to solve the case of a missing man. The police interviews focus on the man’s wife, Hannah Smith. Because of the heavy themes such as murder and adultery this game is likely aimed at a more mature audience such as young adults, and adults in general. 

This is a single player game, and the objective is to figure out what happened to a missing man. The player must do this by simply watching short clips of interviews with the missing man’s wife, Hannah, and try to piece together a story by using keywords to search for additional clips to crack the puzzle.

I think one of the things that the game does really well is creating the right atmosphere and giving players the feeling that they really are a detective trying to figure out what happened with this unsolved case; this creates a sense of fantasy and immersion which is very fun in and of itself. This is done with the old-school interface. For instance, there is a filter that makes the screen look as if it is being displayed on an old cathode-ray tube monitor. Furthermore, the sounds are all correct: the clicking anytime you tap, the humming of the computer, the old keyboard clacking when you search a word, etc. And of course the computer the player’s using looks like it’s running Windows-esque software from the 90’s. All of these contribute to creating the perfect atmosphere for a retro mystery.

Another factor that makes the game a challenge and thus more compelling is the fact that similar to how a detective has to put pieces of a story together not necessarily in-order, we as players must decipher a very non-linear story. The only way a player obtains new clips is by searching up keywords in the database. This results in clips that may be from different dates and/or completely unrelated. It therefore rests on the player to take on this challenge and try to put all the pieces together. This same mechanic of only have the videos the player looks up at any particular time available to them, without having seen all of them, and constantly trying to figure out what to search next to obtain new information, also gives the game a strong sense of discovery, which can be really engaging as a player itches to find out more clues.

The only thing I would suggest improvement on from my experience playtesting the game is the fact that despite knowing the point of the game is to solve the mystery and understand the underlying story, it is not very clear what the player is trying to achieve within the game–the objective. At some points it felt like I was just aimlessly trying to guess words to type into the database. Overall this is a very well made game!

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