Game review: Her Story - reviving a forgotten technology

Full-motion video, once touted as gaming's future, is the ideal medium for this absorbing miniature game.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 10:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 July, 2015, 10:52pm

It's been a while since we've encountered a game that used live-action footage.

Once dubbed as a possible future for the industry, full-motion video games (FMVs) were popular in the 1990s: both the Wing Commander and Command & Conquer series featured plentiful live-action sequences, while innovative but ultimately disappointing games such as Phantasmagoria and The 11th Hour based their concepts around the gimmick.

That's largely what it was - a short-lived gimmick - so it's surprising to see Her Story use the idea more than 20 years after its heyday. A large part of that is built on nostalgia, the game only available for the computer systems (OS and Windows) and its gameplay set during the peak of FMV's popularity (mid-'90s).

The set-up is simple: gamers are tasked with searching archived videos to solve a mystery, True Detective-style. You're presented with a retro-desktop operating system and a simple search engine. By searching for various words - "murder", "death", "missing" - a number of police interrogation videos will be presented, all of a woman being interviewed at various points through 1994.

That's about as much as we can say without spoiling the experience. You aren't sure what you're looking for. You aren't sure who is the woman being interviewed. Hell, you aren't even sure who you are. But there's a fascinating method in its madness: gamers bounce back and forth between clips, never certain of their order or how they all relate - but through various narrative clues and your own sense of analytic deduction, the story starts to naturally reveal itself.

Her Story can be satisfyingly completed in as little as half an hour, but most who journey through its footage will spend at least a few hours piecing together clues. That's because we want our own narrative sense of conclusion satisfied, rather than what the game deems. And therein lies its genius.

Her Story is both retro and modern, and hard to explain without giving away all those fun little details. It's intimate enough to justify the HK$50 price tag and as open-ended as anything else out there. A throwback to an interesting concept that ultimately failed, Her Story more than justifies the hopeful re-emergence of FMVs.

Her Story Sam Barlow