It has been quite the year for Full Motion Video (FMV) gaming. For those of you not familiar with the genre, imagine live actors reading out scenes, and then the player gets to interact with them, directing what happens on screen in a limited capacity. Does the hero open the door or walk down the hallway?
I am a huge fan of FMV games; I earlier reviewed Erika (link here), and absolutely loved Annapurna Interactives Telling Lies, the follow up to their earlier title, Her Story (both amazing titles). Generally speaking, there’s not a lot of gameplay involved in them, but they make the decision-making process interesting or unique in some fashion.
When I got the review request for She Sees Red, I barely even read the press release. I instantly reached out and had them send me a copy for review, thinking it was going to be another FMV game.
Yeah, no. I finished my first “playthrough”, scratched my head, then went back and re-read the press release. Then I read it. It wasn’t a game, it was an “interactive movie”. Ahhh. Apparently, a pretty big difference, and we’ll get into why here in a second.
She Sees Red is a story set in Russia, where a series of murders takes place in a nightclub, and you watch the story unfold as the nightclub owner and detective, walk around and recreate what appears to have happened, while you direct the movements of the killer. You choose to stab a guard with a meat kebab, then the camera cuts back to where the nightclub owner and detective are standing over the body, pulling the meat kebab out of the hapless victim’s head and discussing the situation and trying to figure out where the killer went next.
Strongly recommend watching the story in native Russian (there are subtitles, of course). The English overdub is quite aggressive and just doesn’t feel right. It also doesn’t hurt that I speak a smattering of Russian, so I was quite excited. Come to find out, I can’t understand natural Russian conversations…but I sure can tell you the Russian equivalent of “Where is the library?”
The problem is that most FMV games try to disguise the fact that they generally are a series of pre-recorded scenes and you’re simply choosing A or B. The cartoon-y FMV games like Dragon’s Lair or Sega CD’s Sewer Shark took place in fantastical settings, where if you missed moving in a certain direction at a certain time, you “died” and had to go back to the beginning of the scene. It felt more game-like. Even games like Telling Lies and Her Story have identical gameplay hooks where you’re simply typing words into a search engine, then playing back what videos pop up and trying to solve a mystery. Not much in the way of a game, but again, trying to hide what it really is under some game-like mechanics.
She Sees Red is, as they even say in the press release, is an “interactive movie”, going more along the lines of PS4’s Erica or Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch episode from last December. You watch a few minutes of a movie, then are presented a binary decision. Does the hero pick up the submarine sandwich or do they pull down their pants? Then you watch the movie as it follows the hero down the path you have chosen. She Sees Red is a blisteringly fast 30-minute watch, and after your first playthrough, you can start skipping scenes that you’ve already watched to get you to the decision points faster so you can see all the different ways the story plays out. It even shows you in the start menu how many of the scenes you’ve actually watched.
Overall, it took about two hours to see all four different endings for the game, and those endings are dramatically different from one another. But as I played through it, I could literally see the line diagram in my head based on the choices I made. Okay, I walked the hero down the hall, next time I’ll hide in the closet and see how it affects the ending.
The actors do an amazing job setting the scene and the mini-movie of She Sees Red is well put together, but just be ready for what you’re getting should you decide to plunk down the $5 for it (Hell, even as I’m writing that, it’s hard to be mad at it for $5?). It’s just important to set the scene; I think I was more disappointed when the credits rolled for my first watch because I was expecting more gameplay and less of a viewing experience.