Telling Lies is Sam Barlow’s spiritual successor to his massively original game Her Story. Her Story was a researcher’s dream. You were an unnamed protagonist poring over video clips of a mysterious woman who may have killed her husband. The search engine and your wits were your only friends, forcing you to use keywords to find new clips. You delved further and further into a rabbit hole of lies and deceit. Telling Lies is this concept on a grander scale.
You begin the game as an unnamed agent in a dark room plugging in a hard drive. Through various video clips you follow the lives of four different characters. An FBI agent, a nurse, a video call girl, and a revolutionary. I won’t delve further into their backstory because it would give away some of the twists and turns but each one has their own unique and crazy story to tell that you have to discover through careful dissemination of data. Just like Her Story I had a notebook I kept handy throughout and wrote down everything I could think of as each revelation struck me.
It’s boundless fun trying to slowly piece together a puzzle, and it leaves a lot of difference in the way you play depending on what you decide to research. If you want a change of pace there is a game of solitaire that you can play in between searches. There is one thing that is off though, you can’t beat the Solitaire game….or at least I couldn’t. It’s missing a single King card which is seemingly a metaphor for the hidden pieces missing within the stories, but ends up being more symbolic of my overall disappointment with the game. Just like that missing King card the game always feels like something is gone. A cloying need for closure leaves you, and you’re left wanting more.
The clips are one sided conversations that are taped, because of this you have to piece together the different conversations. The issue is you’re left with 8 minute clips that are quite boring, and it become difficult to trudge through after a bit. The search engine only shows you a limited amount of results usually earlier clips within the timeline. So if you search a character’s name for instance 20 results might be available, but you will only see 5. I disliked the fact it felt like we weren’t seeing every thing like in Her Story.
The acting in Telling Lies is fantastic, but I just never felt connected to its core story or its cast. I wonder if my enthusiasm for Her Story hurt this game in the long run. I still think about the story and the acting of Her Story, it left an indelible mark on me. Telling Lies doesn’t have that lasting impact. It feels broken.
I’d hoped for a lot more, and while the game is longer, more ambitious, and honestly more well rounded as a game. It’s just slow and overall unsatisfying. When I finished the game I didn’t feel like anything had really happened and it left my mind quickly. Until I wrote this review I hadn’t thought of it much at all.
If you’re looking for a short 3-4 hour research filled video fest this is the game for you, but if you’re looking for something a little bit deeper I would go back to its predecessor. Telling Lies just doesn’t hold up in the long run.
Story is slow and boring
Clips don’t engage based on style
Feels like something is missing