Here They Lie (Video Game)

Developed by Tangentlemen

Published by Sony Interactive Entertainment

Available on PS4

Do you deserve a second chance?

Does anyone?

It’s a big question with endless answers.

In Here They Lie, that’s the question you need to answer.  What’s tricky is that you need to answer it without really knowing how big or small that question is.  Do you need forgiveness?  From who, and for what?  What did you do?  What did you do???

Tangentlemen, a studio made of of veteran developers who worked on such projects as Call of Duty and Tomb Raider, have created a game that places you in the shoes of a man in pursuit of a woman in a world that starts bad and gets worse.  An initial cut scene tells you little, but hints that you’ve reunited with her, at least briefly.  You’ve suggested that you should rekindle a relationship that’s been lost…and you’re at least mostly to blame for that, given her words.  She tells you to think it over, as it’s a big decision, and off you go, onto a subway train.

And straight into hell.

Here They Lie was initially a PSVR exclusive.  However, they’ve added the ability to play the game without VR, and that’s how I played it.  I can’t speak to the VR experience, other than to say that, of course, scares would be more intense and traversing the hellish landscapes would be even more nervewracking.

In 2D, the game is still beautiful.  Absolutely stunning.  Everything is almost monochromatic.  Almost, because bursts of color appear.  Dana, the woman you pursue, is wearing a gold dress, and literally radiates with golden color.  She lights up her surroundings like a chunk of the sun, embodied in a stunningly gorgeous black woman.

Dana’s golden shine isn’t the only color.  The other color is almost entirely red.  The red of blood, of neon, of fire.

See, the city you’re left in once your initial train ride stops isn’t like any you’ve seen.  Everything has a retro feel, as if it’s something in the middle 20th century.  Even Dana’s dress and your character’s clothing (seen by looking down or into mirrors) feel so.  Yet, there are modern surveillance cameras and other anachronistic signs that this isn’t exactly any city you should know.

It becomes evident early on that you aren’t alone.  Animalistic grunts are the first sign, flashes of shadows the next.  Before long, you’ll spot one of the beasts (men?) behind the hints.  If you’re not careful, that sighting will be fatal.

That’s the crux of the gameplay here.  Similar to Outlast, you have to get from point A to point B without getting too much attention from these and other roving creatures that seek to harm you.  Death, however, isn’t a major setback.  Checkpoints are frequent and merciful.  Sometimes I found myself past a pinch point upon revival.  I can’t stand stealth gameplay, yet Here They Lie rarely got on my nerves. This isn’t nearly as involved as Outlast and similar survival horror titles.  The action is a means to an end, the story is key.  Most enemies can be bypassed with a little clever thinking and timing, but they’re also quite forgiving.  Give them a little space and you can probably escape before they lock on to murder you.

The tale becomes less and less stable and more surreal as it progresses.  As you go, you’re faced with literal horrors.  The horrors of man.  Every sin you can imagine, played out in front of you, and only rarely are you given a chance to change them.  As you move through the game, things become very confusing.  Sometimes you’re punished for doing what seems to be the “right” thing.  Others, you should clearly have the ability to change, yet can’t.  Futility is very real.

What it all means is the point of the entire affair.  Chances are you won’t be able to sort out the reason for your journey until it’s about to end, and that’s fine.  That’s another statement about life, I think.  The resolution shocked me, not because it was a traditional twist so much as it was so far outside the tale I thought I was part of.

That’s the brilliance of Here They Lie: it forces you to make choices without being capable of understanding the import of them, and then forces you to take responsibility for those choices once it’s all explained.  As such, the ending is as much of a gut-punch as the game is.

The thing I was reminded most of during the course of the game was Jacob’s Ladder.  A doomed soul traversing the city of his memory, tempted and tormented, chasing the golden ideal of everything good in his life while constantly dogged by wickedness both done to him and by him.

What did you do to Dana?  Should you give it another try?  Should you get a second chance? Do you deserve one?

I’ll tell you, few games affect me emotionally like Here They Lie did.  I wanted to stop more than once, simply because I didn’t want to be forced to face another situation like the last.  I wanted to take a shower and watch cartoons, and possibly drill a hole in my head to let the darkness out.  It’s tough, graphic, brutal stuff that wears its M rating like a crown.  Every kind of violence is represented here, stark and without glamour.

When deciding whether or not you should give Here They Lie a go, consider the following things.  It’s not terribly expensive.  I got it for around half price during a flash sale, and it’s only $20 full price.  It’s not terribly long.  I played through it over the course of an evening, maybe four hours.  There’s minimal replay value, although a post-game chapter select is available to try other choices.  The ending is up to you: you won’t change it by your actions as much as justify your own choices. The stealth action is not the focus, the story is.  You won’t play this like Outlast to stream your latest clever escape, as that’s just not the point.

I recommend it.  Highly.  It’ll scare you, unnerve you, and force you to consider possibly the most important question a human can ask themselves:
Do I deserve a second chance?

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Mr. Dark

A man of mystery. An enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a low-carb whole grain tortilla. A guy who writes about spooky stuff.

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