Telling Lies is a completely immersive, interactive film that knows how to use full-motion video to its absolute potential, but keeping players engaged may be tough.
Independent story-based game Telling Lies comes from developers Sam Barlow and Furious Bee, as well as publisher Annapurna Interactive, and it succeeds in being narratively captivating as well as interactively engaging, but it's not without flaws. Telling Lies contains an entirely original story - which focuses on uncovering what the inciting incident is and then figuring out which of the following statements are lies - but it's very much a spiritual successor to Her Story, Barlow's first interactive film game that released in 2016.
A game like this could easily devolve from being an immersive full-motion video title to being gimmicky. But whatever Barlow learned from Her Story's release and subsequent success seems to have worked, because Telling Lies is an intriguing, albeit slow-going, crime fiction thriller that becomes more and more absorbing as it progresses. It's a slow burn throughout, but one that's very much worth it in the end, especially once the story begins to unravel and players finally discover what links the four main characters - played by Logan Marshall-Green, Alexandra Shipp, Kerry Bishé, and Angela Sarafyan - together. What's more, the performances from those actors and actresses is one of the biggest selling points of Telling Lies. It prevents it from becoming cheesy.
In a similar vein to Her Story, there's a mystery at the heart of Telling Lies. But instead of players going through police interrogation tapes, this time it's all about sifting through clips from video calls made between several people - from their homes, offices, bars, and in their cars. However, the mystery itself is specifically tied to the main four characters; going through those clips is what gives players the chance to determine exactly how the dots actually connect. So not only is a great deal sleuthing involved, but there's an emphasis on piecing together the fragmented, overarching narrative.
To get things going, Telling Lies drops players into the middle of the story with practically no information. It can be quite daunting at first, but every tool they need will be there on the home screen; it's just a matter of figuring out what to use and how to use it. Because of this creative choice, Telling Lies may be off-putting at first. Furthermore, aside from unlocking the rare achievement or seeing the player-character's roommate move around, there's only a little narrative progression in the game. At least on the surface. Therefore, Telling Lies can easily and definitively lose players' attention over time. It's a risky gamble.
With a script that spans 240 pages and several clips that show nothing but someone looking at the screen or washing dishes, Telling Lies can become boring quite fast. The only sense in which it all works and truly comes together in the way that the developers are hoping is if players understand the underlying narrative and know what's happening at that exact moment in the characters' lives. Without that knowledge, you're just watching someone wash dishes. Telling Lies has the elements it needs to become a winner in interactive storytelling; it just relies too much on players making all the right searches in, hopefully, the right order.
Telling Lies releases on August 23, 2019 for PC and iOS. Screen Rant was provided a PC code for the purposes of this review.