Telling Lies requires a deliberateness from its players that turns us from viewers to active plot participants. It’s a game that doesn’t hold your hand, and ultimately it’s down to you to decide the truth – another secret of a good mystery done well.
Telling Lies feels like it's about four times as big as Sam Barlow's previous game Her Story, and it shows. You feel it not just in the four characters you're sifting through footage of, but in the variety of its videos too: from FaceTime calls to hidden cameras capturing secretive meetings. In Her Story, it was famously easy to go down a rabbit hole of sorts on your own intuition; in Telling Lies, that tendency is mechanized in smart, intuitive ways. When it comes to good interactive mysteries, Telling Lies is among the best you can get.
Telling Lies feels more like a jigsaw puzzle, with you hunting among scattered pieces. But while it can have its moments of exasperation, there are few things as satisfying as revealing the full picture.
Telling Lies may borrow its core mechanic from Her Story, but shifting from monologues to two-sided conversations brilliantly expands the investigative gameplay, and a pivot from murder mystery to political thriller gives director Sam Barlow a much richer set of ideas to explore. A few storytelling hiccups and awkward edges do little to detract from a thought-provoking look at the modern surveillance state—delivered not through soapbox lecture but by forcing you, unsettlingly, to participate.
Telling Lies makes great innovative tweaks to its gameplay formula, and offers a high-quality live-action adventure, but it completely fumbles merging these two elements together. A word of advice would be to try your hand at the puzzle and discovery for a while, and then eventually just watch the clips outside the game to enjoy the narrative.
Her Story is a tough act to follow, and unfortunately, Telling Lies does not hit the same emotional highs that Barlow’s previous game did. Opting to use the same barebones video player both does not make sense for this storyline and introduces an annoyance that players are forced to deal with. The story is still intriguing, but not to a binge-worthy degree. Telling Lies is worth playing for Her Story fans, but can’t quite hit those same high notes despite its best efforts.
Amazing experience ****. Finished it a week ago and cant stop thinking about how emotionally involved it got me and what a genius idea the one sided convos are to immerse you far deeper than watching two people talking would. Less **** more of an experience I will surely never forget
Telling Lies tries to bottle lighting a second time
“Telling Lies” is the second game in the genre that Sam Barlow seems to have established as his own playground, and it hews pretty close to the trail blazed by “Her Story”. Since I am a big fan of “Her Story”, I was looking forward to “Telling Lies” quite a bit.
The gameplay loop is almost unchanged: You have a database of video files which you can query with a search string that is matched against the spoken dialogue within the videos. These videos tell a story, and the player is tasked with puzzling this story together. The difficulty comes twofold: The number of search results is limited to five and ordered by date, so the later videos that contain most of the dramatic plot developments tend to be excluded, just as it was in “Her Story”. Also, almost all these videos are recordings of one side of conversations over the web, so to get the full picture, you need to find the recording of the other side. This actually is a meaningful step forward from “Her Story”, where only one side of the conversation was recorded.
The game provides you with a few tools to help you keep track of the developments you uncovered: A notes tool, which is bare bones but absolutely sufficient, a search term history, the ability to set bookmarks and to mark and search for terms from the current dialogue. This leads to the immersive gameplay loop known from “Her Story” and provides quite a bit of fun.
For a while. But then things started to drag a bit for me.
I think this is not inherent to the gameplay systems, but to the story “Telling Lies” wants to tell. It is an engaging yarn with quite a few plot twists and some very clever and important things on its mind, but it is a bit too long. The game contains almost 10 hours of video content, and not all of it is engaging. Also, the plot of “Telling Lies” is not as well matched to its medium as the plot of “Her Story” was. That game has a few twists that work uniquely well in the interactive medium of computer games, and “Telling Lies” struggles to provide similar peaks of engagement.
It is not a problem of the production values: The images and sound are crips, the performances are all at least adequate.
In the end I think this might be a case of diminishing returns. Barlow’s unique style of game wowed me the first time, but the second time around, the wow factor was gone and what engagement remained wasn’t enough to overcome the bloat of the story.
TLDR: If this is your first Sam Barlow Interactive Video Detective game, you should have a lot of fun: “Telling Lies” is the superior product. But if you’ve played “Her Story” or “Immortality”, “Telling Lies” might lose you before it reaches its conclusion.
Same system as "Her story" : good story but the interface is awful :
- why am I forced to rewind videos while stop, start buttons could have prevented me from rewinding a 7 min video ?
- only 5 results from a search even if there are more occurences with the chosen keyword !
- impossible to watch 2 videos in the same time, very useful to link 2 conversations.
Really, if NSA analysts use such outdated tools, rogues and terrorists don't need to worry ! These amateurish errors spoil the gameplay.
Too expensive for what you get, and if you're expecting "Her Story 2," this isn't it, it isn't even close. Part of what made Her Story work was the micro-viewing sessions, which are replaced with longer, more tedious one-sided delivery that seems to be basically ignorant of what makes a game fun - this is more a slog than fun. Don't recommend.