Sam Barlow has probably become one of my favourite writers ever due to his ability to use interactivity for mainly telling a story. Instead of relying on poor QTEs, forcing you to walk in narrow hallways or generally making you perform actions that mean nothing, you actually have to piece events you uncover together and find more clues to further the plot. This made me an instant fan of Her Story and Telling Lies, which in turn had me excited for Immortality. Known as “Project Ambrosio” early on, this was to be one of his biggest works yet, to the point of bringing in three additional screenwriters for this game: Allan Scott, Amelia Gray, and Barry Gifford. Is this final product worth remembering throughout ages or is it best left forgotten?
Marissa Marcel was a young actor who starred in three big movies that for various reasons, never got released. With mere clips to go by and every single click with the mouse providing you with more scenes, your goal is to figure out what happened to her. This is an intriguing setup, as you do not have much to go on besides optional documents that barely add more to the introduction. Because of this, her tale is going to be experienced through different reels unlocked at an irregular pace.
Regrettably, it is already here that problems start to arise. Since merely interacting with objects inside a film will take you to a new tape that does not necessarily correlate to the previous one, it becomes difficult to get a strong narrative and any form of focus. There is no connection between the clues you get and instead you are offered a mess of information. It is frankly better to just exhaust all options to get as many scenes as possible and then rewatch them in order to get some form of a story.
The mystery and immersion are thus destroyed since you are essentially doing bland busy work simply because it is the best road to take. With all that said, the plot is not that interesting either. Only a couple of the clips move it forward and the characters have minimal personalities, making it hard to be invested in anything occurring on the screen. I also wish to note that this tale goes in a poetic and surreal direction, which comes off as forced and almost neglected anything discovered previously.
Yet, I cannot deny that the movies themselves could be entertaining. Despite that they are all cliche parodies, it is hilarious to witness them being just that. They are clearly passionately made, with the footage taken backstage and in rehearsals being admirable showcases of how much actually goes into making any flick. I even commend how corny the dialogues could be in these productions, and how gracefully the cast shifts to talk like everyday people outside of the shootings.
Unfortunately, watching all the tapes in one go made for an incredibly slow burn due to the poor pace, so I believe there is a reason why this option is not a part of the main game. The amusing scenarios also do not change that the overall structure is harmed by you unlocking random reels that throw a ton of unneeded details onto you. Nothing correlates or is strengthened by your discoveries, which makes it hard to care at all about what I achieved or become enthralled by what I uncovered. While I do not mind a bit of silly or even bad film nights, it says something when I checked my watch constantly until the artistically diluted ending.
Story Score: 3/10
Just click on everything
Immortality starts off by giving you a menu of all unlocked clips that you can arrange by flicks, dates, and those you favourite. It is a decent setup to keep all of those you have gathered nicely organised, with each of them being possible to rewind or fast forward at different speeds. Furthermore, you can pause within any scene, which is where the main “mechanic” and the tedium of this title come into full force.
As mentioned earlier, you can click on anything that your cursor highlights and those are plenty. People’s faces, mirrors, books, keys, paintings, telephones, columns, and so many more elements that this activity quickly becomes exhausting! Because of this, some tapes can be dreadful with the number of aspects to interact with, since each will take you to another movie. There are no relations between objects or even characters at times, making this concept lack any engagement. In fact, due to how this game rarely gives any hints on how to progress, the best way to go is to choose every option you get! This is also where I wish there were time bars to lessen the monotony and skip the uneventful parts.
Honestly, this is simply lazy. Even clicking on the same face multiple times between reels is a valid way to get further, which is basically button mashing at this point. Only towards the end did something odd happen that requires you to pay attention to cues and vague hints. However, this finale lasted barely 10 minutes and as the credits rolled, I felt like I experienced something that insulted my intelligence. Mysterious cases should make me use my noggin, right?
Gameplay Score: 2/10
Definitely a piece of art
Maybe this would have worked better as a movie, as the aesthetics here are phenomenal! Each flick represents its era beautifully, be they religious horror, city crime or modern drama, they all have distinct styles that I adore. Not only do you get different resolutions to show the progress of technology, but also varied effects like green screen and fonts for subtitles to mark evolutions in the world of cinema!
Even the sets are commendable with a ton of diversity to give a journey through Marissa’s life and the industry itself. This made me realize what a huge project making any media truly is and it is a neat idea to include shots behind the scenes for more insights into this! As for the actors, they do a good job with what they got to work with, despite some falling under stereotypes. Their directions are strong and all are believable as human beings, just not necessarily personal due to the uninspired scripts.
Although, the music is probably the hardest part to comment on. There are some wonderful tracks with ambience chimes and a huge focus on symphonic instruments, but the melodies are rarely used. I believe this was done to emphasise whenever you uncovered something, as they can be abruptly loud. Sadly, due to no clear understanding of why my findings were significant, this severely faltered. Luckily, the sound effects of reels rolling and stopping add to the sweet atmosphere.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Wanna actually watch the movies?
I will not deny that I one hand wanted to understand what was going on and what happened to each cast member, but going through all of the footage felt dissatisfying and just continued the combination of poor storytelling and dull mechanics. With over 200 clips to find, the amount of guessing required to see all of them and no way of knowing if you clicked on everything possible, made this a dreadful task to take on. Searching on youtube is a more valuable option, but the results made me hate the entire experience.
Extra Score: 1/10
Even with products that I do not like, I try to figure out who they could be for. Immortality is a hard sell for anyone who values interactivity, which is the core element that separates video games from any other media. However, I do believe this might be for those who are invested in the world of cinema, as there are tales of desires to make films to be proud of here with lovely camerawork and fascinating looks behind the scenes. If this sounds intriguing, perhaps there is something here for you. Personally, I would recommend watching an actual movie instead.