Critical Play: Mysteries

This week, I played Her Story, a mystery game created by game designer Sam Barlow. It is available on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android. The game is rated “mature” (ages 17+) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), as the game contains some sexual themes and strong language. The game mostly involves viewing short video clips, so it is a game that is approachable to gamers of all skill levels. Those who enjoy murder mystery and watching things like short YouTube videos will love this game!

Her Story a single-player game where the objective is to uncover the details of a man’s murder through clips from seven police interviews. There is not really a way to “lose” the game – the player searches for keywords (words spoken in the videos) and views 270+ clips to piece together the story, which is the main procedure of the game. Players can also tag clips with their own keywords, so they can be easily located/searched for later, and pin clips for later reference. One rule is that you can only view the first five videos that contain the keyword you search – in order to view the other ones, you must search for different keywords. The gameplay is contained within the L.O.G.I.C. Database of the desktop screen, but there is also a Mirror Tiles minigame to play for fun.

The main types of fun in Her Story are narrative and discovery. As we watch more clips, we slowly are able to uncover the details of Hannah Smith’s background and the murder. (We unpack the narrative through discovery.) Like the walking sim I played last week, Dear Esther, it is such a simple game, but it does a great job of creating this fun. 

Screenshot of gameplay

I personally really enjoyed the game. It is not a game that requires a large amount of concentration and can be played casually. There is no way to lose or “fail”, and the more you play, the more you understand the story, so it is quite addicting. There is not much that I would change – the game is designed in such a way that you do not need to be prompted with instructions to understand what to do, although they do include some in the README files. I also love that they have an option to turn off the glare to make the screen more readable and accessible. As someone who usually prefers having more guidance in games (clear instructions and goals/procedures laid out), I feel like adding too much information would take away from the discovery aspect of this game. 

Non-glare version of the game

SPOILER: I felt so proud of myself when I finally understood that there were two Hannahs who were separated at birth. 😲

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