The “are games art” debate has long been settled (they are), but it doesn’t change the fact that we often miss the forest for the pixels. Hardware is sold on the strength of visual fidelity, so it's no surprise graphics are such a dominant part of the conversation. But what if a game skipped being a game and went right into being a movie? What if it looked as good as anything you’d see in real life? How would you know what the game was?
Immortality, from Sam Barlow of Her Story fame, was one of the hottest indie titles in 2022, and for good reason. It tasks players with reviewing archival film footage of actress Marissa Marcel to piece together the mystery surrounding her sudden disappearance (and reappearance). A horror/thriller/mystery with point-and-click roots and one of the most innovative takes on what a game could and should be, Immortality deserves your attention.
The most striking thing about Immortality is that you’re watching actual movies. It’s live-action footage, no CGI or animation to be found. Each of the three hour-long movies at the center of the game feels authentic to its respective time period. There’s a huge cast delivering incredible performances, including a few that are downright chilling. Be warned, this game takes some very dark turns and even serves up a disclaimer about its content involving sexual assault, nudity, murder, and more.
The central mechanic involves match cuts, a filmmaking technique that centers transitions on objects or characters. Players can pause and rewind footage at their leisure and then seek out match cuts by focusing on something specific. In practice, this often leads to a lot of clicking all over the place, but this can lead you to some pretty interesting discoveries.
This is not a linear game, and the plot isn’t as easy to follow as the vibes. As you piece together Marissa’s story you’ll find yourself jumping from films to commercials to BTS footage to late-night talk show interviews. It may sound nebulous, but the strength of Immortality is how intuitive this system becomes. The sleuth in you takes over quickly as you start chasing one particular face through the scenes, or revisiting clips over and over because you’re certain there’s a clue you’ve missed.
With a seven-hour playtime, Immortality begs you to stick with it. It can be a little jarring at first, and many critics have rightly pointed out that finding clues often feels more like blind luck than anything else, but there is a deep, engrossing story ready to reward your patience. It’s the kind of game you turn the lights out for, as much a spectacle to witness as it is a puzzle to be solved. You have never played anything like it before, and likely won’t ever again.