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Games are a fascinating opportunity to explore voyeurism, taking us a step further than the likes of Rear Window and passive visual media can achieve. Whereas we let a movie show us an invasion of privacy, games invite us to be the one responsible, taking an active role in the prying. Telling Lies is the latest such opportunity, following on from the success of FMV videogame Her Story.
The conceit of Telling Lies is that we embody a mysterious someone who has access to bootlegged surveillance software, letting us dig through hours of some heavily fragmented, prerecorded footage. We are dropped into this situation without context, with the implicit aim of figuring out who the people in the films are, and what has been going on with their lives. If you've played the previous game, Her Story, than you will be familiar with the format. This is the same but more, extending the scope dramatically to include more actors, recordings, scenes and situations.
There are things the game does better than Her Story. For starters, that previous title was entirely dependant on the acting ability of its one and only star constantly monologuing, and occasionally her performance as a dishonest suspect wasn't always that convincing. I suppose if you forced Anthony Hopkins to act straight into a camera for three hours, you would still start to see the cracks there as well. In Telling Lies, the standard of acting is significantly better, and I put it down to the benefits of having more characters to bounce off of each other, in far more natural surroundings.
There are also things Telling Lies does worse too. For starters, the footage is broken up so that we can only see one side of the conversation at any one time. This means that for every clip of someone talking away on skype, there is a corresponding clip of someone sitting and watching in complete silence for anything up to ten minutes. Far too often do you find yourself fast-forwarding through boring, useless footage; something that didn't happen in the shorter, tighter Her Story.
The other issue is that there isn't a lot you can take away from it by the end. Her Story was a short, neat, disposable armchair murder mystery, whereas Telling Lies is a long sprawling yarn of small mysteries, none of which are as exciting. Theoretically I should have been uncovering scraps of videos that dramatically re-contextualised my understanding of previous scenes, but these revelations were pretty rare, and nothing quite measured up to the big "ah, gotcha!" moment of Her Story.
Telling Lies is unusual and interesting enough to deserve a recommendation, but gets tedious and frustrating before the end of its 5-6 hours of play time.
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