It’s rare to see a magic trick performed in a video game the way immortality it does.
By the time I knew something was up with Sam Barlow and Half Mermaid’s latest FMV mystery, I had already opened Pandora’s Box. I just didn’t know yet. Small traces and breadcrumbs were deposited there. The theories leaking out were waiting to be opened up to something big. And I kept pulling the strings.
immortality is the latest game from Barlow and company, and sees Barlow returning to a full-motion video similar to hello story other saying read. The most obvious difference is how the experience itself is handled; instead of writing queries to a database, it has a reel setup similar to a classic Moviola machine and a cross.
Aim that crosshair at something that catches your eye, and immortality match cuts to another scene with a similar or the same object. Then check out the pictures, turning dials and knobs to your heart’s content. Find information. To learn. It is the mechanical feeling of immortality that already left me completely stunned, and kept this experience feeling so different even when some moments of immortality he felt a little shakier.
immortality (PERSONAL COMPUTER [reviewed]Xbox Series X|S, Android, iOS, Mac)
Developers: Sam Barlow, Half Mermaid
Publisher: Half Mermaid
Release: August 30, 2022
The actual frame immortality surrounds an archive of found films of Marissa Marcel, an up-and-coming actress who starred in only three films. They were never released, and Marcel has not been heard from since. Presented as an interactive slice of history, immortality allows you to jump in time between his papers: 1968 ambrose1970 Minskyand 1999 two of everything.
A mechanical feeling of enclosing reels of film and rolling through them is at the heart of immortality. The best way to play it is in a dark room, watching the lights and sounds in motion, while the headphones isolate you from everything else. The clips are pretty easy to browse and sort, which is good because you’ll discover dozens and dozens of them. There is a lot of footage to comb through. Some you will even want to visit again and again. Marcel’s films, as well as behind-the-scenes footage, rehearsals, promos and interviews, and more are available.
But instead of just looking at a box of old labels, you have the option of threading your own journey through combo cuts. Very similar hello story asked you to write a word and follow your curiosity, immortality ask the same thing: what interests you?
The reel life of movie stars.
It’s that complicated notion of discovery that really captivated me in immortality. Your own curiosity is your guide. But by ditching text-based search and focusing on the visual, immortality it feels less like a keyword search than other games. Each scene has a visual makeup that can be carefully studied. Perhaps a portrait catches my eye and I want to find it elsewhere. It could be chasing jewelry, a microphone, or an expression. Following a star through different scenes could be as easy as cutting their face off. I even used the clapboard a couple of times just to fill in the gaps for a particular movie.
The combined cut system is really impressive as it covers a large amount of film. Not everything can be cut to match, but a fairly considerable number of elements in the frame can. However, it is not without its occasional problems. Sometimes clips can bounce back and forth between a single match, or certain images ‘bounce’ on the same clip. This could lead to moments of frustration, though they served me just as often as controls for dropping one track and chasing another.
Special attention should also be paid to real movies. The three films and their ancillary sequences serve as the foundation, and great care has been put into them. Everything is period-appropriate, and even has the correct look and feel of when they were filmed. I loved immersing myself in the American new wave of Minskythe feeling of the era of the latest studios ambroseand the extremely late 90’s vibe of two of everything. Each one feels like a window to a point in time, and it’s (mostly) easy to mark when and where clips happen as you pass between them.
Ready for my closeup
The live action cast also do a fantastic job. Manon Gage (Marissa Marcel) displays incredible variety throughout the films, skillfully portraying Marcel’s changing personality over the years. Actors who play characters like director John Durick, actor Carl Greenwood and others play their own moments very well. Little glances, smiles, or expressions don’t just add to the mystery, they build these characters and inform the years of film we’re reviewing.
immortality it’s a game about movies, and it does its best to marry the two. He is deeply interested in the audience’s relationship with the movies, both as the player with the game and the viewer with the creator. As the name implies, immortality it dives into questions of life and death, acting, and who commands how those stories are told. At one point, a director comments that ownership of some of his films will go to the studios after he dies. His legacy becomes his property, to manage as they wish.
It’s moments like these that keep me going immortality. But this FMV mystery can also trick you. They are subtle, and I was impressed by how quietly they surprised me.
I want to point out that while immortality it is a mystery game, it is also a horror game. To what end, and how any of that manifests, I’ll let prospective players find out. After all, I wouldn’t want to have it explained to me.
but immortality changes direction noticeably. And while it’s still good, that feeling gets a little more complicated.
ghost in the machine
weather immortality is about the mystery of Marissa Marcel, that cold case gets a lot bigger the more you investigate. Ultimately, I think it serves the themes. immortality is trying to convey well. And the way vast amounts of information are doled out is amazing; I literally gasped out loud at a discovery, and even more so it took me by surprise several more times afterwards. Half Mermaid pulls off some really clever tricks with the setup they’ve come up with.
However, some of this discovery can cause repetition and frustration. Certain bits of information may be repeated. This can get complicated when you’re looking for a bit of specific information, a scene with Marissa, for example, and you keep matching and going back to the same clips.
It’s hard to talk in too much detail about immortality, because it is a story-based game where discovery and interaction between the player and the game are crucial. There’s a minefield of spoilers and secrets to dance to, and even after spending more than eight hours rolling credits and looking for additional context, I still have theories and ideas that I’m excited to discuss.
immortality it’s the kind of game that changes the way you’re going to think about advancing the genre. It has some amazing technology in its combo cutting system, and lays out its subjects in a stubborn way that really works. Barlow received genuine gasps and a literal scream from me over the course of his runtime. Even in the moments when he was frustrated, flipping back and forth, looking for some way to learn more, that same system made those surprises feel genuine and involved in a way most games don’t.
immortality is another great entry to the collection of FMV puzzle boxes that Barlow and co. They have been producing for years. I don’t really know if I’ve played something like this. From big reveals to little moments that are simply grounded in the life and times of Marissa Marcel, these scenes will stay with me for a while, living. Immortalized.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]