For a brief moment in their pixelated history, video games actually featured video.
It seemed at first innovatively daring in the 1990s when disc-based titles like "Voyeur" and "The 7th Guest" employed footage of real-world actors. Now, such interactive experiences are remembered as a cheesy fad from a bygone era of gaming. However, a trio of recently released downloadable games is looking to bring the full motion video game genre back to life.
A review of the latest FMV adventures:
— "Contradiction" ( Pneuma Films, for PC and iOS, $4.99): This whodunit casts players as an inspector (played by Rupert Booth ) who has been dispatched to a picturesque English hamlet to investigate the death of a college student. As the title suggests, the key to unraveling the mystery is by questioning the town's shady locals and discovering discrepancies in their testimony.
The game's dense footage, filmed in rural England, provides a transcendent sense of atmosphere that couldn't be captured with a virtual world. Despite a wonky control scheme and a few oh-so-campy performances that recall FMV games of yesteryear, the entrancing "Contradiction" is an intricate case worthy of wannabe sleuths' time. Two stars out of four.
— "Her Story" ( Sam Barlow , for PC and iOS, $5.99): The thoughtfully minimalistic "Her Story" is a mystery for the Google and YouTube age. The gameplay consists of glimpsing an old-school computer screen and searching keywords from a database containing video clips of a mysterious woman being interrogated about the apparent death of her husband.
It's a simple conceit that dynamically plays out as words lead from one clip to the next — out of time and out of context — anchored by a captivating performance from British actress-musician Viva Seifert. With cutthroat sharpness, "Her Story" creator Sam Barlow has keenly crafted one of the most unique interactive mysteries in recent memory. Three-and-a-half stars out of four.
— "Missing: An Interactive Thriller — Chapter One" (Zandel Media, for PC and iOS, $3.99): Technically, "Missing: An Interactive Thriller" is interactive, but there's nothing all that thrilling about this mindless "Saw" knockoff about a kidnapped father ( Patrick Hivon ) tasked with escaping a series of death traps and the grizzled detective ( Roy Dupuis ) who is searching for him.
While the performances and cinematography set an appropriately eerie mood, the gameplay itself merely involves solving cliched challenges, such as word search and slide puzzles. The first chapter of "Missing" only takes about an hour to complete. If the initial installment is any indication, this interactive fiction series is worth missing. One-and-a-half stars.