Who Killed Simon?
Thrillers, and more specifically, cop thrillers, work on a string of coincidences. Interrogation rooms, bad cop/good cop dynamics, infinite coffee mugs. Last year, the HBO hit ‘True Detective’ gave us all a rational look of police work from different aspects. It happened before on ‘The Shield’ and most notably on ‘The Wire’. Police work is far from epiphanies. It’s on the detail. On knowing when we are being bull-shitted. And that is pretty much the whole deal with ‘Her Story’.
DEVELOPER: Sam Barlow
Sam Barlow, notorious writer of both ‘Silent Hill Origins’ and ‘Silent Hill: Shattered Memories’ is a feverous reader. When he cites sources of inspiration, names like Buñuel, Ballard and Auster comes ahead. And for visual cues, one of the first names he cares to approach is the one of David Lynch. Writing and any kind of art process is not something you tackle under complete ignorance of previous art works because what you write or create, if it succeeds, will be a part of that Art, now with capital letter. Future videogames of this genre will be compared and rated to ‘Her Story’ (and others) standards. That’s how Art in general functions and that’s why creators tend to seek inspiration on renowned sources.
And when you find yourself out of structures and you are the one who have the tools to build –what it happens when you are independent- wonderful things happen.
And Her Story is wonderful.
Creating a game through video clips and what is basically a day-to-day police job must have been a real puzzle. And a real puzzle it was ‘Her Story ‘ was turned into.
The story is tangled and distorted and, with logical sense, testing to follow and hard to put together. That’s in fact the game.
The interface is minimal; you are a cop in front of your computer in 1999 researching a cold case from 1994 where a man, Simon, was found dead by his wife, Hannah (Viva Seifert, who completely nails the role). Hannah is the lead character of the game. Through seven real life interviews divided in over a hundred video clips you have to figure it out who killed Simon. The trick is that you have to find out what to look on the Search Bar. Hannah talks about Eve. Who is she? She is a girl that looks exactly like Hannah. They both talk about Simon’s boss, Eric. And they talk about a mirror, and a watch, and a holiday and a birthday and a trip to Glasgow and a midwife named Florence. Finding a specific clip will trigger a musical cue that will point you that you are on the track. Explaining more would be spoiling the game that can be fully completed in two and a half hours. An hour more if you want to get the thirteen achievements that are nothing more than thirteen video clips where special things happen (like a clip of Hannah -or it was Eve?- spilling coffee).
What you’ll finally understand is the dark story of Hannah and Eve and their relationship with Simon and it will be tough.
What can go wrong if you pick an ex-athlete and keyboardist like Viva Seifert for your lead role? A lot. And she feels so natural. So, so, so natural. She is acting like she is a professional. Like she is embodying a skinny brit Meryl Streep.
What can go wrong if you take inspiration from court cases like the trials of Amanda Knox and Jodi Arias? Oh, so much.
Nevertheless, ‘Her Story’ is a brilliant success wrapped all over a phenomenal concept that has been on the downside for quite a long time. FMV (Full motion video) videogames had a mild success on the 90’s with the ‘X-Files’ videogame alongside others like ‘Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective’ and ‘Night Trap’. Ok, in ‘Her Story’ you don’t actually do much more than typing words on the search bar and playing the videos (that play smoothly). It even talks better of the game when with such simplicity ends up being an entertaining experience.
Barlow stated that he was developing something different from what it actually ended on the digital shelves. He said that ‘LA Noire’ was a disappointment and that he was searching other ways. That’s when it was decided the U-turn and the FMV point of view. And at the end he was right.
Maybe, ‘Her Story’ could have been a mix of interrogations with the dynamics we’ve seen in games like indie ‘In Torment’ but probably Barlow was looking for the open end approach.
Nailed that bitch
The game came out cheap. Through this site you will find a lot of videogames that at the release time cost a lot more than ‘Her Story’ and delivered a lot less. I’m not talking about time of play. Like I said before, the game can be completed in the duration of that last ‘Transformers’ disaster, but it gets to you in ways difficult to describe. Is intense, is sad and is elegant. And you can play it in a 90’s computer like a charm.
Take a deep look at her story. You won’t be dissapointed.