A recent trend to emerge in the game industry recently is the idea of a story-driven game. Games like Telltale’s “The Walking Dead Game” or Fullbright’s “Gone Home” won’t exhaust your thumbs through gameplay, but instead offer a detailed and interesting story that force players to think, not act. Her Story (developed and written by Sam Barlow) very much fits into the genre of story-driven games, but it tells its story in such a unique way that sets it apart from the rest.

The entirety of Her Story takes place on the desktop of a police computer. This computer holds almost 300 FMV clips of one Hannah Smith being interrogated about the death of her husband. Here’s the catch: The only way to search for these clips is to type a word in the search bar, and if Hannah says that word in a clip, that clip will show up. (But only the first 5 clips that she says that word in) Apart from ‘murder’ being typed into the search bar by default to give you a starting point and a couple of ReadMe files on the desktop, Her Story tells you nothing else. It’s up to the player to figure out what exactly happened and dive deeper into the intrigue surrounding the case.

Due to this extreme non-linear approach, how the information about the case unfolds is entirely based upon what words the player decides to search for. You could find a massive clue in the first 5 minutes of playing or never stumble across it in the 3/4 hours it takes to finish Her Story. Clips that you thought had no point or relevance can suddenly mean everything after finding a different clip that ties into it. Occasionally it can feel like the clip is reacting to what you typed in. (Eg typing in “Sex” brings up a clip of Hannah asking “Really? You’re going to ask about my sex life?”) Most clips contain different leads for the player to pick-up on and pursue, which means I was rarely stuck for a word to search for until near the end of the game. The backgrounds + the clothing that Hannah wears during each interview helps easily distinguish when exactly each clip takes place in the timeline without having to constantly check dates.

The actor portraying Hannah (Viva Seifert) is a mixed bag. While her performance as Hannah is mediocre, she manages to create a sense of distrust towards her which encourages the player to search harder for the truth. Even without the video subtitles turned on its easy to understand her and she often pauses between sentences, allowing the player to think back on what she just said. A small nitpick I have with the FMV clips is that at the end of some clips after Hannah is finished talking, the audio will fade to complete silence while in other clips it won’t, which can be a little distracting. Other than that small hiccup however, the audio design is superb. The faint hum of a computer can be heard when on the desktop, as well as typical mouse click sounds for when you click on something or the processing sound it makes when searching for clips. The default track is an ambient piece that is extremely helpful in setting the tone for this game, and this song can change to a more emotional song or complete silence depending on the content of the most recently watched clip.

One thing I was unhappy with was the ending of the game. Without spoiling anything, the ending focuses on the reason as to why you’re watching the clips rather than the intrigue surrounding the clips themselves. Finally figuring out what happened regarding the murder feels more climactic than the ending presented.

Her Story is an unique take on a puzzle game that tells an engaging story through it’s minimalist gameplay.