Category Archives: You Should Probably Play

You Should Probably Play Her Story

Her Story

Tomorrow you’re going to say the last time you were moved by a game was today. Her Story is a totally strange, odd little bird of a thing that compels you to move forward through a haze with an unstated promise of clarity on the other side. And that’s the prize of it all: getting lost in the maze is just as fascinating as the truth is shocking.

Her Story is the latest from Sam Barlow, the fellow behind the equally unique and compelling Aisle and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. In it, you attempt to unearth the truth behind a 1994 mystery wherein a woman is interviewed over the course of several conversations with the police regarding her missing husband.

Those interviews are broken up into little 15-second chunks (some are even shorter at three or four seconds) of FMV footage that you’ll have to search for using an exceedingly simple computer interface, one purposefully emulating the experience of using Windows 3.1 and the like. It’s a database search of all the conversations you have with this woman and is kicked off with a simple query: murder.

It’s remarkable how this fragmented memory, distributed amongst over 200 clips, works so well to push the player forward into believing they are being clever. It’s a fascinating design because to find more clips, you have to search for words and phrases into the computer. But only five are returned at a time, though many more may contain the query.

Searching for “you” or “I,” for instance, will land you with too many results. You have to really pay attention to both what this woman is saying and how she says it to find the right thing to ask for. You’ll start off casually tagging videos with things that pique your interest, but eventually you’ll have you nose to the screen and drowning in questions.

It’s a design that amazingly makes you feel like you are discovering things just as well as if you weren’t along a set of likely paths determined by Barlow. Picking up on phrases or themes that this woman seems to obsess over or land particularly heavy on or pauses after gives you such a thrill to chase.

Her Story

I can only imagine it’s what dogs must feel seeing so many cars to chase. Where are they going? What are they? Why are they? I guess I’ll just have to catch one to find out. But in this case it was seeing locations and names whizz by, my tail wagging as I anticipated in running down all of them. It’s tantalizing as it frustrating, knowing I’ll pass by so many curious invitations just to accept another one.

The fact that you’ll be piecing together across several days and stories makes the whole process cerebrally intensive and all the more rewarding when you finally understand how it all fits together. There’s a sense of inevitability across the whole endeavor, as you dip from assumption to conclusion while avoiding the truth.

A lot of that has to do with the woman’s performance. She (Viva Seifert) is endearing and disturbing and grotesque and beautiful and terrifying and warming and everything in between as she recounts her childhood, her marriage, and her husband’s disappearance. There are several clips that even in their short runtimes are some of the most…unnerving things I’ve ever seen.

Her Story

Even if you don’t play games, you should give this a whirl. Hell, watch someone else play it and tag along for the ride; it’s great in co-op, too. Barlow says, “If you can Google, you can play Her Story,” and it’s a worthwhile ride. For six dollars (on sale for five right now), just give Her Story a chance.

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You Should Probably Play Does Not Commute

Does Not Commute

It’s pretty simple getting from point A to point B in Does Not Commute. The fun comes in when you start adding point C and point D and so on. Does Not Commute is a clever and engaging little mobile game that forces you to plan ahead while playing behind. A lot of people have been looking forward to it since seeing it at GDC and now that it’s out, you should probably play it.

Described as a “strategic driving game” by developers Mediocre, the point of Does Not Commute is to continually guide a series of different cars from their starting points to their destinations. The catch is that with each successive car you have to drive, every previous commuter persists on the map, clogging up major thoroughfares and complicating your journey.

While each map can get complex rather quickly, the foundation is quite simple. Presented in a top-down perspective, you simply tap each half of the screen to steer. That, in fact, is the only amount of instructions given outside of how to use certain power-ups as you earn them. The rest is taught through simply playing.

For example, you don’t even start off knowing what the basis of the game is. Your first task is to get one fellow from the bottom of the screen to the top. Easy peasy. But then the second task, if you try to go direct, will cause the two cars to crash. It’s a brilliant and smooth bit of integrated player education.

Vehicles will also handle drastically differently, and it’s sometimes dependent on the drive. Some are in a rush and are real speed demons, which can be a humongous problem if you’re late into a map and you need to do a lot of tight maneuvering. And then sometimes you have a bus or a dump truck, and what are those naturally other than painfully slow.

That, however, is where the power-ups fit in. By using Turbo, you can fit slower drivers into tighter openings where you’ve already (and, regrettably, unknowingly) bombarded with other cars. Or by using Traction, you can rein in the unwieldy folk. It offers a layer of strategy, but also a layer in which you can once more screw yourself, which is the best kind of tool in video games.

Does Not Commute

This especially goes for collecting more time. You see, you have a timer dictating how much time you have to get everyone simultaneously through to their end goals. While it overlaps, you burn a single second every time you reset an attempt, and that really adds up. This forces you go often go out of your way to collect little bundles of time of 10 or 20 seconds. It’s a necessity, but it will also undoubtedly and fantastically bone you so hard.

A nice little touch (other than it sounding and looking great) is that each driver comes with a little blurb of a backstory, and they all tend to weave together. The first rural setting paints a picture of an accident and an identity thief no one’s noticed yet. Then you see in the city in the next map that there’s definitely might be some Cayman Islands-fleeing type money shenanigans.

One thing to note is that while the game in its entirety is absolutely free, it’s pretty much impossible to beat it unless you pay for the premium version. Fronting the cash will unlock checkpoints, so when you inevitably run out of time or simply close the app or your battery dies, you won’t have to start over from the first map. It’s an inoffensive scheme since nothing stops you from beating it for free, but it’s quickly a nuisance if you aren’t a freaking god of gaming.

Does Not Commute

The problems can quickly compound once you have to take advantage of the floaty nature of these cars. Driving off the side of an overpass might be the only way late into the game to get over a troubling intersection of your own creation. Or launching off a ramp could be the only way to save you precious seconds, preventing failure. (Also, notice that I keep saying “vehicles” and not strictly “cars,” wink wink.)

There’s a great deal that makes Does Not Commute a good game, but in this case, the best way to convince someone is to just have them play it. And at the price point of zero dollars, there’s really no reason not to give it a whirl. (That is unless you don’t own a phone, in which case how did you escape the 1800s?) You should, without a doubt, play Does Not Commute.

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