Immortality is the new FMV game from Sam Barlow. This is Sam’s third FMV game, preceded by Her Story and Telling Lies. It’s important to note these past two games because there is nothing else to Immortality can be compared to.
Sam Barlow has a unique way of creating FMV games. Rather than present information to you in a traditional linear format, the entire Story is searchable from the get-go, with vignettes uncovered based on how you play. Her Story had you watching segments from several police interviews with the ability to search keywords that would take you to any video clip containing that word. Telling Lies had the same mechanic, only rather than one woman in multiple interviews, the scope was greatly expanded to include one side of a video call from various people. Finding two videos with the same word uttered years apart meant you experienced both snippets out of order. You then must use this information to piece together the story memento style.
Immortality keeps this same mechanic, with a few exceptions. This time, you are not searching key terms but clicking on items or faces in that scene that will bring you to another scene. This is all done through the films of a lost movie star whose starring roles never saw the light of day.
The Story of Immortality is Barlow’s best, which isn’t surprising, seeing the additional screenwriting talent he brought in. Allan Scott, Amelia Gray, and Barry Gifford all assisted in writing the Story of Marissa Marcel’s forgotten career.
Marissa Marcel is an actress that starred in three movies. Ambrosio in 1968, Minsky in 1970, and Two of Everything in 1999. None of these films were ever released, and Marissa’s existence has long been forgotten. But all of the footage from these three films have been found and uploaded into an unnamed software, ready for you to sift through the three movies and piece together what happened to Marissa.
The acting and period sets do wonders for realism, even if the occasional wig choice will give you pause. And the game shines the further you fall down its rabbit hole. Once you uncover each layer, every decision Barlow and his team make seems deliberate.
The Story of Ambrosio, Minsky, and Two of Everything all mimic the mysterious tale of Marissa. And once you learn where the Story goes, you can’t help but continue pulling on every thread you find.
The Films of Immortality Hold Up Well
The films are believable as the cinema of their time, and half the fun is finding the plot of each film. Ambrosio is an adaptation of a late 1700’s novel, The Monk. The director is inspired by Hitchcock, who ferociously demands perfection from his actors. Minsky is a 70’s crime thriller about a murdered artist where Marissa plays his Muse. And Two of Everything is a late 90’s erotic thriller about a pop star and her body double that plays out like a more straightforward Mulholland Drive.
Marissa isn’t the only constant throughout these films. Other actors, stagehands, and similar props show up in each. In a scene from Two of Everything, selecting a face from Ambrosio could pull you thirty years into the future. The care taken in recreating these films is truly astonishing. It is hard enough to make a period-piece film, let alone three different periods with a budget smaller than most films. But the team at Half Mermaid Productions nails the aesthetic, making you forget that these are not real unreleased films.
The magic trick Immortality pulls off is how organic the Story moves. Barlow’s two previous games had one flaw. Some scenes contained large exposition dumps. And since you could stumble on any scene out of order, it was possible to find huge revelations early in the game. This was made even worse as the revelations rarely made sense, not knowing the context meant to come before. Immortality introducing the object clicking mechanic all but quells this flaw, but it can be frustrating clicking on the same item in multiple scenes attempting to find a new story beat. I spent the last hour or so of my playthrough frantically clicking every gun, crucifix, and apple I saw, trying to reveal the last bit of lore.
Using this mechanic ensures that you are not spoiled too early on what should be late-game revelations. Without getting into any spoiler territory, there is also a hidden game mechanic that I stumbled upon naturally at what felt like the exact moment the game wanted me to. Once this mechanic is found, the Story takes a sharp turn and gets all the better for it.
The brooding, unsettling nature of Immortality’s Story will keep you on the edge of your seat for its roughly six-hour playthrough. You can and will roll credits before every piece of film is unlocked. The game decides that you’ve seen enough, you know how Marissa’s Story ends, and you can complete your time with Immortality. This lack of completion but a sense of finality stays with you after you’ve finished the game. Yes, you can go back scrubbing through each scene and uncover pieces you missed. Or you can end your time in Immortality, knowing that nothing lasts forever and the best art knows when it’s time to end.