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Community Article: Indie Insights - Telling Lies

Written by John Edwards

Do you think you'd be a good detective? Be able to trawl through the evidence and get to the heart of the truth? The popularity of Sunday night ITV crime drama suggests there are a lot of armchair sleuths itching to turn their minds to sifting through testimonies and motives to sort fact from fiction.

In Telling Lies you are sat at a computer with a database of videos, recorded through a variety of cameras, giving a window into the lives of four main characters and their interconnected lies. You are able to search through these videos with keywords which will return the first five videos that contain that word. The game starts with your character searching for the word 'love' and from then on it's up to you and your own intuition to discover what's been going on.

The videos you watch typically show one half of a conversation, piecing together who they're talking to, what their responses might be helps you uncover more words to search for. Much like their previous game, Her Story (Switch port please), Telling Lies takes a nonlinear approach to storytelling, jumping back and forth through the characters' lives depending on what lead you're following.

Playing this game feels different now the world has passed through a period where screen time was so essential for some many during lockdowns. Seeing people on the other end of a camera has become a much more prosaic part of life and helps make the central conceit feel more natural. 

Of course, you'd probably want to have a word with whoever decided to design a database that only lets you see the first five results, but that artificial restriction is the source of the puzzle element of the game. It stretches your grey cells to wrangle the available conversations and pick your searches with deliberation to find a new video which will fill in the blanks in your narrative.

It's possible, likely even, that you won't see everything before you have seen everything and may need to return for another play through once you have a good idea of the events the footage you're searching through documents. Her Story had a grid which filled in when you'd watched clips, but Telling Lies avoids that, presumably to stop you spending time tracking down a final ten second clip which adds nothing to what you already know beyond a coloured in square.

In games, solving crimes usually boils down to finding items or exhausting dialogue choices, sometimes you click a button for an X-Ray like detective vision. But Telling Lies wants you to consider the characters and their motivations. Less about yelling objection in court and more about unravelling their relationships and what aspects of themselves they allow others to see.

Telling Lies needs emotional and logical intelligence to unravel the knots behind the web cams. Picking up on clues from the background, the unspoken words from the other side of the conversation, all those gut feelings channelled into finding the truth. And if it gets too much you can always play a round of Solitaire.