Her Story is a "non-linear crime fiction storytelling" game from Sam Barlow. He lead Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and created Aisle*. In Her Story, you play someone sitting at an old computer sifting through the files for a mystery from the 1990's. The meat of the game consists of finding and watching FMV of the investigative interviews of the main character. Viva Seifert plays the subject of the interviews.
Sam Barlow is sort of (in)famous for his writing and the experimental nature of his games. Wait! Don't go! I know we just had a discussion of limited gameplay in the Sunset thread, but this is getting a lot of buzz for actually being pretty good, despite being an "art game."
*If you haven't tried Aisle, please do. It's free. It's a text game. You choose one action for a man in a store aisle and then read the outcome. The game then resets. You can then try again with a new action or stop at any time. If you choose to try again, you'll learn more about the main character and begin to unravel what's going on in his life.
stupid question - how does Aisle work? I’m at an intro screen, nothing is happening, and nothing I enter in the text box seems to do anything except reload the intro screen (“You are about to read a story” etc.) Maybe it doesn’t work on Chrome?
Just hit return. It definitely works in Chrome. (But if for whatever reason you can’t get it to work, the browser interpreter is just convenient - the original release of Aisle was as a downloadable game file for an interactive fiction interpreter program and you could look into that.)
On a different note, I’ve been of two minds about Her Story. It sounds pretty great, but talk about a very disparate track record. Aisle is pretty brilliant and although there’ve been some other one-move IF games after it, I’m pretty sure it was the original. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, on the other hand, takes one of the most terrifying horror games ever made and turns it into a clunky, ugly mess that barely qualifies as a game and squanders flashes of interesting ideas with terrible execution.
I enjoyed this quite a bit. I got a bit pedantic with note taking without realizing there is an in-game method that handles that (at least somewhat) because I was in full Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective mode. I found the story compelling, though not necessarily inventive. The database program had some believable elements - the limit of 5 clips in order being returned, which skews results to the earlier interviews with less “interesting” information in a neat way. The lack of a “play all” button is a little less believable, but it’s a game, right? Is it a game? I think so, but either way I enjoyed it.
And actually, the highlight for me was the gamey part were the video clips subtly hint you - procedurally, like a detective - toward keywords without them being in the text or implied in the text. Like for instance (spoilers because I mention some keywords!!!):
Some keywords are in here
I appreciated how you were rewarded by playing the role of a cop and using keywords that would make sense in the larger context of an interview. Like how it would be reasonable to ask if she wants coffee or tea at the beginning, and how things like running through numbers (say five, six, seven, etc) would be important for timelines and yet not come up often enough to hit the limit of 5 like garbage words would
Think I will have to go look up the entries I missed now.
For the record, I have now played Her Story, and largely understand the story. I think. (Although I still am missing probably at least 30% of the videos, so I suppose there could be a bombshell somewhere in there). I don’t know what happened to make Shattered Memories suck so much, but Her Story is definitely way more on the Aisle end of the Sam Barlow quality spectrum. It’s a frigging fantastic little game, engrossing and narratively rewarding, with the chopped up clips and search constraints meaning you really do feel like you’re piecing together things for yourself.
I haven’t finished it, but I looked at the game directory and found all the videos in wmv in chronological order. I know this is supposed to be a framed narrative, so the way it is played (via a 90s computer) is supposed to matter (I notice the reflection on the screen, it is a woman…) But I am tempted to just watch all the clips in one go. I WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH AND I WANT IT NOW!
Another note: I think buying it straight from the official website http://www.herstorygame.com/ is the cheapest. You get DRM-free download AND a steam key. Better than GoG or Steam.
What an inventive and colourful little game. Never played a game like it, the closest I could think of is “Gone Home” although ultimately I think the story twists and exploration is superior in this one. The way that you start to make sense of the videos by watching them in scattered fragments is done really well, I really like how the developer designed some plausible restrictions around access that gate videos just enough to make it meaningful. For instance, you only see clips of answers, never the detective’s questions. For every keyword searched you only get the first five entries, to access the later videos you’ll have to know enough to search for the right keywords that are also linked to those videos.
It’s presented so organically, as well. You really feel like you’re gradually stumbling onto truth in spurts. I had five sequential running theories of what had happened while going through them, each getting knocked back when a new piece of information comes to light and the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together better.
I think I understand the story well, but then again I only just got the “50% of database accessed” achievement so who knows! What keywords am I missing!?
Haha I really don’t understand your attitude, watching it chronologically is not the same experience! It’s not just the 90s computer and flashes, trying to piece the story together yourself using random clips is most of the fun (in my view).
I’ll be a devil’s advocate here, but one could argue that keyword access is just deliberately scattering the jigsaw puzzle so you have to do the busy work of piecing it back together. If I were given this 90s computer, first thing I would do is to find ways to view the files directly one by one.
I’ve viewed 100% of the video, some are just fillers (like “YES” five or six times without context…), but I still think there is ambiguity as to whether they were identical twins or there is really only one person with split personality. The “raised in secret across the road” bit is just too incredulous. ORLY??? NO ONE NOTICED??? Hannah and Eve never showed up in the same room together, so there is really no physical evidence that they were twins. Both Hannah and Eve were not 100% reliable, because they/her lied about their/her identity, so you really have to take what they/she say with a pinch of salt. No police is going to take their/her testimony at face value.
There is context of a sort for the single word clips, but they’re not really informative, no. And while I don’t think the story is ultimately plausible from a real world perspective, I do think there’s a particular interpretation the game intends that is supported within the fiction of this particular narrative, and to dismiss it because you can’t suspend that much disbelief is your prerogative, I suppose, and seems to be the choice of many who’ve played the game. But I don’t think it’s the story the game’s trying to tell.
There are some things that suggest they are twins:
Hannah doesn’t have a tattoo on her left arm.
Eve talks alot about florence and about her dying.
The video that relays the story about getting ready for school in two seconds.
Two mirrors were made by Simon and given to each.
Eve did not seem to think she was pregnant at 17.
Other than the tattoo, all of these can be explained as quirks of the multiple personality disorder. There are many hints that suggest multiple personalities as well, such as the direct recitation of how she found her body across two days when I am pretty sure one is hannah and one is eve (although this led the detectives of accusing her of rehearsing testimony with the twin, hmm…). The whole thing still isn’t 100% clear for me.
I agree about the secret raising bit. In fact, I found it even less plausible when she said she moved in with hannah after Florence died, and made sure the parents didn’t find out both were living there.
There are some subtle differences between those two recitations. Like Hannah uses the names of Simon’s parents and Eve doesn’t. But then, Hannah lived with them. Eve didn’t. And yeah, it’s supposed to be rehearsed and coordinated, the way they did all their identity swapping. That pair of clips is one of my favorite bits of the game because it’s so carefully handled.
[spoiler]You never see Hannah sleeveless though, and that one interview where Hannah was sleeveless showing tattoo and sang (she couldn’t have played the guitar! Someone off camera played instead, lol), I think it was really Eve pretending to be Hannah. Eve was the singer working in the bar. Hannah was more prudish, but Eve was more lively, and “Hannah” was unusually lively in that interview.
So when Hannah and Simon got married and Eve was out of the picture, where was Eve? She couldn’t have lived in her parents’ house without her parents noticing. And then there was Hannah/Eve’s parents “accidental” death, that was a little convenient, no? It swiftly led to Hannah moving back into her parent’s house, thereby conveniently let Eve came back to the picture still “living in the attic unnoticed”.[/spoiler]
There are seven interviews. At least two of them (with the blue short sleeve shirt and the final one, where she’s in the white shirt) are actually being done by Eve. There’s a third one that I’m not as sure on, but I think is Eve (the day she’s got the orange shirt and does the photo test? I think?). Maybe a fourth. There’s definitely one where her arms are bare and there’s no tattoo and she behaves in ways you would expect from Hannah. Obviously there are ways of producing temporary tattoos (since it’s actually the same actress for the whole thing, there kind of would have to be), but I think that tattoo is the strongest indicator that the game is telling a story about actual twins, however implausible a story that may be.
[spoiler]IIRC, there was really only one interview where we can see the bare arm, which was the singing interview, which can be taken as Eve pretending to be Hannah. So that couldn’t be the one decisive evidence.
The thing is, Hannah never really mentioned Eve. Hannah usually referred to Eve as “her friend”, e.g. the time she held “her friend’s” head underwater out of anger (a giant red flag if there is ever one), or Hannah asked “her friend” to ask Simon out because she was too shy. “Hannah”/Eve only mention Eve by name when talking about her tattoo, about what it means.
Sarah is the woman watching the video, and the name Sarah also came up in the interview, when Hannah was talking about her baby. IIRC, Hannah had morning sickness and threw up mid-interview, but Eve was the one insisting on drinking water “for the sake of the baby”. This suggests a) Hannah and Eve are really one person, b) the writer (SB) is getting confused even when he meant to write them as twins, or c) I remember the details incorrectly.[/spoiler]
It’s option C. You’re remembering incorrectly. For starters, bare arm wise, there’s the interview on 7/1 (which is when she does the singing and is wearing a bright blue short sleeved shirt), which is Eve - and you can see the tattoo the whole time, including when talking about the tattoo. But there’s also the 6/25 interview (before the body is found), where she’s wearing a light blue short sleeve shirt and is really dressed down - that’s pretty clearly supposed to be Hannah, and there’s no tattoo. Similarly, there’s a 6/30 interview in a floral print short sleeve shirt - again, bare arms, no tattoo, and it’s Hannah. She also specifically mentions Eve’s name as the “friend” in several of those clips, and there’s one where she does knock code and says to herself “why are you talking about Eve?” While Eve brings up her name in quite a bit of the final (7/3) interview’s clips, if sometimes obliquely.
You are correctly remembering morning sickness and a clip where vomiting occurs off screen (as well as drinking water), but Eve’s the one who’s pregnant (Hannah had a miscarriage and is infertile) and does those things. One other bit of physical evidence - in the 6/25 interview Hannah has a bruise on her face. On 6/27 (with the orange shirt), which is Eve and which is, IIRC, when we learn she’s pregnant, she doesn’t and the detectives remark on it. Eve laughs it off but she indicates the wrong cheek when she talks about it. You’re right about Sarah being a name Hannah brings up re: her baby…but that was the baby she miscarried when she was 17. It’s not clear why Eve would have chosen that name for her child but it seems like she did.
[spoiler]For me, the Knock Code was definitely the weirdest. When Hannah does it, it’s like she’s talking to Eve even though they’re not in the room together . . . it just seems like it’s a break from her carefully constructed reality. Whereas when Eve reveals what the Knock Code is and does it, she also gets caught in it, but it’s like she’s demonstrating it rather than talking to Hannah.
As I see it, it’s Hannah during the interviews on 06/18, 06/25, and 06/30. I originally thought it was Hannah on 06/27 but no bruise and she’s a bit more assertive than Hannah usually is. I know you noted it as Eve, but there was something early on that told me it was Hannah for some reason, but I can’t remember why that is. I started marking the clips about halfway through with who each was and when. Eve is definitely on 07/01, 07/02, and 07/03. The weird thing is that they wear the same shirt on 07/02 and 06/18 - even the same hair style if I remember right.
Also, the difference in the finding the body testimony is that Eve sounds like she’s just listing the details and looking all around, more exasperated that she’s doing it whereas Hannah felt like she’d done it.
Finally, to me it seems like Eve is covering for Hannah, especially with the Glasgow trip. Hannah is the one that says the watch would place her in Glasgow, but she also mentions that she hit a taxi. That the person was pissed, but she mentioned the baby, etc. Whereas when Eve tells it, she hit a car and goes to A and E. There’s a lot of great subtlety between the two performances. I think I’m at about 85% of the clips. I’ve got a big chunk in the middle of interview three or four it looks like, but I think I’ve pieced it together without them.[/spoiler]