Immortality is a narrative adventure game from Half Mermaid and Sam Barlow, the same mind behind Her Story and Telling Lies.
The premise follows the mysterious career of Marissa Marcel, a fictional Hollywood starlet who never was. Ranging from 1968 to the late ‘90s, Marissa starred in three feature films that were ultimately never released or finished. Recently a cache of footage from all three productions was discovered, and using a restoration program, you are tasked with restoring as much of the movies as possible to learn what became of each project and their stars.
The cache also includes table reads, behind-the-scenes documentation, and press interviews, which help to detail who some of the actors and staff really are versus their movie character counterparts. The cast of actors do an amazing job of drawing you into the story. I was eager to learn as much as I could about both the in-movie plots and the larger mystery about the productions in general. Yet both narratives suffer from pacing issues, mainly because there’s no consistent means of leading you down one plot thread versus another.
You control the playback of scenes in a fashion that emulates “Moviola” machines of the early ‘70s and can pause to analyze any scene with the image mode. Image mode can highlight important objects or people in a scene and will link those with something similar in another. In one moment you could be digging into the story of the first movie, Ambrosio, search an object, and be linked to a table read for the third movie, Two of Everything, only to search a face and be sent back to a scene in the second movie, Minsky, as many of these scenes may share the same staff props or even concepts.
Through this process you’ll eventually unlock and find new scenes that gradually complete each movie and shed additional light on events. It’s a simple mechanic that makes the navigation and scrubbing aspects of the game feel a lot less tedious than the search engine in Telling Lies. But it sadly robs the experience of a strong sense of ownership over the investigation. Important scenes have multiple paths to reach them, and it can sometimes be unclear where the image you are attempting to search will send you.
Additionally, it’s not overtly clear when you’ve made an important discovery or not. I was largely only aware of key moments when my Steam achievements would pop after watching a scene, and even then I remained unsure of the significance of what I’d witnessed.
Despite the uneven pacing, I loved the look and sound design throughout. Each movie is a reflection of the time period it was shot in, demonstrated by the change in fidelity and the kind of special effects techniques used. The attention to detail is truly impressive, but the weight of that immersion is carried handily by the entire cast of actors. Certain performances legitimately unnerved me in a way actual horror games have failed to achieve, and that’s a testament to the excellent direction and the talent of every cast member. Sadly, it’s not enough to make the entire experience worthwhile.
Immortality just doesn’t stay entertaining through to the end. Its gameplay mechanics have been streamlined to the point that only its narrative is left to carry you through, and unfortunately after 8 hours of watching and re-watching nearly every clip in the archive, it still only left me scratching my head wondering what it all meant. Immortality is out August 30 on PC, Android, iOS, Xbox Series X|S and included in Xbox Game Pass.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Immortality.