Her Story places you in front of a whirring police computer terminal from the nineties. Through it, you can access old videos that pertain to a murder case that happened some years ago. The story focuses on a woman and whether she killed her husband. It’s strikingly minimalistic, as the videos just feature one woman and her voice. You don’t even hear the questions that the police detectives ask her.
In it, players are prompted to use their search engine skills to find new videos and uncover the story. These videos are quite short, rarely running longer than a minute, and there are hundreds of them. The results are capped at five per each word, so you have to do a bit of digging to access all the videos. You’ll have to listen carefully to the videos in order to find words that you can use in your queries to further your search. It’s best to play with a notepad close beside you. As for myself, I ended up covering my hands with words that I’d hastily scrawled in pen as I played through.
The gameplay amounts to little more than this searching process, so if you’re looking for more of a multi-faceted detective simulator, you might be a little disappointed. Personally, I am unsure about its structure. It is innovative—that’s for certain—and very accessible. On one hand, the non-linear manner in which the narrative unfolds means that twists can be uncovered very suddenly, and so the first hour is very gripping. However, it’s in the nature of the format that this game eventually gets diminishing returns. Quite literally.
It took me about an hour or two to piece together all there was of the story, but I felt compelled to find all of the videos in case there was more to it. When I finally did, they were quite insubstantial. Deliberately, the game developers have left some questions unanswered and, indeed, the whole story is arguably open to interpretation, so it’s difficult to know when to quit your search. Therefore, the puzzle pieces will have likely slotted into place in your head before you’ve seen your final video, meaning that the dramatic climax will probably come too soon and the game will end with a whimper as opposed to a bang.
Moreover, according to the developers, my experience was not atypical, as the game takes 2 to 3 hours on average to ”beat” and about 7 to 8 hours to reach 100%. If you uncover enough videos, a chat box will show up in the corner and ask you if you’re finished yet so you can achieve some sense of closure there, but you can also pore over the videos for as long as you please.
Technical quibbles aside, the tale within Her Story is creepy and compelling. Viva Seifert’s performance is haunting and memorable. Whilst the game never ventures into the realm of the outright terrifying, it really nails unsettling. Honestly, I made the game run in windowed mode because I found full screen too eerie. No, really.
At the end, I felt satisfied after having uncovered the majority of the narrative arc. And yet, there’s still elements within the story I can imagine pondering over for a long time. It’s not the most intricate mystery I’ve ever delved into, but it is intriguing and ambiguous. Even though I’ve found all I can, I have the temptation to go back and check the videos to test the various theories I have about what actually happened.
Overall, if you have even a passing interest in crime fiction or experimental games, I’d say that Her Story should be well worth the small price it’s going for on Steam and iOS.