“We Had a List of Rules”: An Analysis of HER STORY

A fourth entry in my video series on detective games. It’s not real surprise that this game would end up in this series: I’ve taught it twice now (including in one class this term), I’ve written about teaching it, I named it one of the games of the decade, and right before the term launched I published a full transcript of it. What I didn’t expect was for it to be quite this long—definitely among the longer analyses of a single game I’ve done, in any format.

Script below the jump.

Continue reading

The Looking Theme in A Case of Identity and Return of the Obra Dinn

Group project video essay, created by leader Haoru Wang

I used walkthroughs and Let’s Play footage in this video essay, because I haven’t upgrade my Laptop, and it won’t allow me to use iMovie to edit the video. I had to use iPad for editing, and here’s my reference list:

Continue reading

The Revolutionary Power of Clues in Return of the Obra Dinn

Group project video essay and summary blog post, created/written by co-leader Kellie Lu

Warning: contains spoilers.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a distillation of the mystery genre that manages to make a player a true detective while adding its own intimate flair. Unlike many detective games that give the player god-like powers or modes to highlight clues and select the correct choice from a pre-written plot, the player must investigate environments without hand-holding. And it does this well. Many players comment on the way that the game makes them feel empowered, and this is the key to which Obra Dinn revolutionizes the mystery game genre.

How does the game do this? Roger Caillois states that the pleasure of reading a mystery novel is “not that of listening to a story, but rather that of watching a “magic” trick which the magician immediately explains. The author has set everything up in advance. The story opens on a rigged set; we do not even see the main event, but only its disturbing consequences” (4).

Continue reading

Get a Clue: Clues and Obra Dinn

Co-group leader and resident anxiety machine Albert Aboaf

“The contradiction? Elementary.” I say, before submitting every possible piece of evidence from the court record in a pathetic attempt to convince Ace Attorney I’ve been paying attention.

The difference between the puzzle of a traditional detective story, and the puzzle of a game floating loosely in that genre, is fundamentally set around the question of the audience’s relationship to the method of solution; the clue. In the traditional form of the puzzling story, the primary work expected of the audience is in interpretation. This is of course, because the story medium doesn’t allow the reader to discover things on their own. You can never truly see the scene of the crime as Holmes does.

Continue reading

HER STORY Complete Transcript

images_from_games-her_story

Ian here, cooped up during the shelter-in-place order and busy prepping for this quarter’s classes.

So I did that thing again, where I’m preparing to teach and/or critically analyze a game, make a guide for myself, and I figure I might as well put it online for public consumption. This time, it’s a complete transcript of all of the video assets in HER STORY, Sam Barlow’s 2015 full-motion video adventure that plays devious games with its script, before it ever adopted video format.

If you’ve ever wanted to fill in a pesky block in the HER STORY‘s in-game Database Checker while chasing the “Detective Chief Inspector” achievement, this guide is for you. As for me, it will be a course tool when I teach the game again this quarter, and it forms the research backbone of my next video essay.

Continue reading

Too Rigged to Fail

A belated third entry in my video series on detective games. The pace of these has been slow, but I’m going to have to step it up, as these are intimately related to course prep for a course I’m teaching in the Spring term of 2020.

Script below the jump.

Continue reading

Inspect-’em-Ups: Genre Core and Periphery

One last post for September: I did indeed succeed in getting the second part of my new series on detective games out of the door by the end of the month. And it’s a long one, too! Long enough that I don’t feel bad about the dry spell that’s inevitably going to set in in October.

I’ve written about most of the games in this video on the blog before, mostly for things like capsule reviews and walkthroughs. This is the only time I’ve done any sort of analysis of them, though. (Excepting maybe Gone Home.) In addition to being long, it’s also mostly brand-new material, which is not something I can say about most of my videos.

Script below the jump.

Continue reading

Walkthrough: Kona

kona_main_menu_logo

The analysis I’ve been working on has again resulted in me writing a full-on game walkthrough, this time to Parabole’s 2017 game Kona. Again, I have decided that I might as well just post the results here, as a gesture of goodwill to the world.

There are some useful walkthroughs to Kona out there already, each with its own limitations. The most thorough walkthoughs explaining how to get 100% completion are videos, a format that I really dislike when it comes to games of this style. On the other hand, the written walkthroughs all exclude certain useful details, or sometimes have out-of-date details because they were written while the game was still in early access.

This walkthrough was written with the following goals in mind: thoroughly exploring and retrieving all documents from the game’s principle locations, and fully filling out the game’s journal. If you want to do those things, this is the guide for you. It’s not going to cover some other things, like where you can find all of the talismans and treasure hunt locations. If you want that sort of thing, you should check out another walkthrough (like this one here, which has a great map).  

Continue reading

Walkthrough: The Painscreek Killings

painscreek_killing_header_banner_large.jpg

I’m in the midst of analyzing the detective game The Painscreek Killings (EQ Studios, 2017) right now, and as part of my process I ended up creating a quite detailed walkthrough. Since the work was already done, I figured I’d paste it over here, throw on some spoiler tags, and share it with the world. Might as well be generous.

There are a couple of other walkthroughs for Painscreek Killings out there, including this one here and this one here. I thought there was room on the internet for another walkthrough, though—one that was compact and consistently formatted. What follows are streamlined but nonetheless thorough details on how to proceed through the game.

Here’s a breakdown of how I’ve labeled things below:

gate is anything that obstructs your progress—usually a locked door, locked drawer, or literal locked gate.

Keys are absolutely necessary to get past a given gate in the game. These can be key items (literal physical keys, usually) that get added to your inventory, or key info (codes and puzzle hints) that often does not.

Clues point you in the direction of keys and solutions. They are not, however, mandatory. It is always possible (if unlikely) to stumble your way to the things indicated by clues just by exploring the world.

Embedded keys and clues are bits of information attached to an object that are important, but might not be immediately apparent: the date of a correspondence, a number stamped on a keepsake, a code mentioned in the pages of a diary, and the like.

Because of the nature of the game’s design (which is what I’m attempting to describe in my analysis), there is always going to be some amount of backtracking involved in it. The order I’ve listed the game’s locations in below minimizes backtracking as best as possible, without eliminating it.

Happy detecting!

Continue reading