Rewarding for those who dig deep
I have had two different experiences with Her Story.
When I first played the game, I began fiddling with the search engine trying to uncover what happened to poor Simon.
I did not get very far, and began to lose interest and decided to play something else.
A few monthes later, I decided to boot up Her Story again. It was nagging at me that I could not understand this game at first, and I wanted to know exactly what you are supposed to do in this damn game. I begin looking through the search engine and watching clips again wondering what was going on, and by chance I had discovered a huge revelation about the game that completely turned Her Story on it's head.
It was surprising to see my innate assumptions about this murder case get blown out of the water, and even then it just continued to slap around my unfounded conclusions as to what was actually going on. The games plot has serpentine twists that remind of me of the early works of M. Night Shyamalan film. I found my self going back to my personal video archive to cross reference new footage, and then finding even more revealing tidbits helping me piece together the entire narrative of the story.
The closest analogy I can compare as to what kind of gameplay experience Her Story contains would be that of taking a 1000 piece puzzle, opening the box, and dumping the pieces on your table. Digging through each piece until you find the ones that connect, and the connecting the chunks of information you have, all the while looking at each piece for every minute detail. You can not rely on merely observing the same patterns over and over. You have to pay attention to whats being said, certain details and clues, the appearance of the subject, the times and dates of the videos, everything. I definately think keeping a pad and paper is a requirement for this game, because once you start digging deep into this game you will need it.
Whenever you engage in something, you have a preconceived notion of how something will work; there is always a structure and a expectation of how to interact with that structure. Her Story tears this expectation down not only in how you experience the content, but how you engage with the structure of Her Story as a video game. The game does not hold your hand and lead you on a linear path to understand how the story gets from point A to point B. Other than a couple of readme.txts placed inside of the game. it does not really tell you what you are doing, or why you are doing it in the first place. The game does not time you, the game does not grade, the game does not give you a score or tell you what you have accomplished. The game does not give an elicit definition of the challenges and roadblocks that will set before you. Only when you have researched and observed enough significant videos to give you a understanding of what exactly happened during the murder of the man named Simon will the game nudge you into giving you an answer, and once that happens you will know exactly what Her Story is.
One of the criticisms I have seen is "Her Story is not a game! It's just a bunch of FMV clips!". I have noticed people who say this have put only an hour or less into Her Story. As much as I don't like being dismissive of people's personal opinions I have to say it...their opinion does not matter. They have not put in enough time to understand what this game is. It is definately a game. It will challenge you, it will make you think, and most of all, you will have fun. Considering it accomplished all of these parameters for myself, along with a sense of personal satisifaction for getting to my own personal conclusion and closure of the game, I have to say this is a very good game.
-Ambiguous Nature of game leads to satisfying investigating
-Wonderful perfomance by Viva Seifert
-Tense and atmospheric
-Engaging and entertaining plot twists
-Incredibly detailed in its clues and hints
-Does not immediately grab attention
-must be focused and pay attention at all times
-Ending may not be satisfactory for some people
-Not for everyone, will have a niche audience
-It's ambiguous nature and lack of solid instruction
may confuse and turn people off
-requires a solid investment in the story which some people
may not have
I can completely understand why some people may not be into this type of game. It definately can be out of a lot of peoples comfort zones, but those who do 'get it' have be come rabid fans of this game, discussing theories and plot points feverishly. I would highly recommend this game if you are into FMV games, investigative police work, murder mysteries, and early M. Night Shymalan-esque plot twists.