I'm a sucker for a game with a great story. From time to time, I also enjoy a deep, interesting film. Well, 2022's Immortality aim's to combine both, and I think it did an excellent job. This is a spoiler free review of the game, as playing it is much better than hearing me explain it. Let's dive into it!
Immortality is a series of interactive films, with the connecting framework being the fictional actress Marissa Marcel. The three films were unreleased, and as the player, we string together the movies using clues in each individual scene. With this mechanic, we jump from film to film, and a lot of behind the scenes footage.
The first film is Ambrosio, a film about a monk that falls in love with a young lady at the monastery, and is based on the 19th century novel The Monk. Filmed in 1968, this film was Marissa's first feature film, but the Italian director held onto the negatives, and the film was never released.
Marissa's second film, Minsky, is a 1970s detective drama. The titular artist Minsky has been murdered, and a young detective is on the trail. He quickly becomes immersed in the art group that surrounded Minsky, with Marissa's character being his main connection. Due to an accident on set, the film was never released.
The final film Two of Everything was shot 30 years after Minsky. Marissa had been unseen during that time, but returned to play the main character of this drama. ToE is a thriller, in which Marissa plays a popstar, and her body double. A web of murder and deceit influences the plot, and we get to piece it together.
Throughout the 3 films and various behind the scenes footage that we look into, there are multiple branching plots. With avoiding spoilers, I won't go into detail, however, the game introduces them in a very fluid manner.
Immortality's gameplay is extremely basic. As an unnamed character, we piece together clips from Marissa Marcel's three unreleased films. We can enter a clip, and interact with parts of a scene. A click on a character, prop, or part of the background will lead us to another scene that features a similar item to the one we interacted with. We also have the ability to roll the footage forwards or backwards, which can lead to alterations of the scenes.
Sam Barlow, Immortality's creator, made two prior games that function in a similar manner. As such, the gameplay does not get in the way of experiencing the plot. With a more "intensive" set of mechanics, I feel as though it would have negatively impacted the ability to enjoy the films, so I appreciate the simple gameplay.
In fact, the gameplay is so simple, that the game is playable on iOS and Android. I played on an Xbox Series X, and had no glitches or issues with the mechanics of the game. However, I've seen that the iOS/Android version is a bit buggy right now, which may hamper the experience.
As a note, the game begins with a content warning, listing things that you will see in the game. This is not a game that I'd want to play with my parents, and children shouldn't be around for it. This earns its "M" rating, but I'm totally happy with that.
What Immortality does best is the experience.
The Writing & Cinematography
Barlow and his team of writers really knocked the story out of the park. The writing of our characters, both as the actors, and the characters in the films, is done quite well. Between the "behind the scenes" footage and the actual films, the quality of the writing is great. Each film's scripting really makes it feel contemporary to the time that it was set to be made.
Ambrosio really feels like a mid-budget Italian exploitation flick from the 60s, with cheesy dialogue. Minsky has that 1970's American crime drama dialogue, with a plot that would feels like with a cross of Chinatown and Andy Warhol's Factory. Two of Everything very much feels like a vanity project that you'd see from a washed up star, which was the intent. While the writing is excellent, it is only a part of the great quality of Immortality.
Without good cinematography, I don't think Immortality could work. However, this is extremely well shot. Much like the writing, the three films have cinematography that match each film's era and genre. Ambrosio tends to have somewhat flat composition, reflecting the Italian filmmaking of the time. Minsky's scenes tend to be packed full of depth, reflecting the different director that created it. Two of Everything feels like a medium budget, medium quality film, which is the tone set by the plot too. Aspect ratio and film quality change from film to film, and from the behind the scenes footage. All in all, Immortality does a great job at immersing the player in the world's of each film.
While not related to the writing and cinematography, the sound design is excellent. Between the sound effects and soundtracks, it really ties the game together. However, we've yet to touch on my favorite part of the game.
Immortality's actor performances are top notch. We've got actors portraying various characters within the films, but within the metagame elements, there are actors portraying actors portraying characters. It's a lot of levels of complexity to the game, that really makes it feel real. While playing the game, we'll see lighting people, directors, boom mic operators, and the actors playing their roles. However, it's all actors playing roles, and again, that does so much to really immerse you into the world of Immortality.
For me, the two biggest standouts in a great cast are of Manon Gage, and Charlotta Mohlin. Gage plays the central role of Marissa Marcel, while Mohlin plays a character that I won't name, but plays a massive part. Both steal every scene that they are in, and I was mesmerized by the performances. I'm someone that is almost always trying to find out how the proverbial "sausage" is made, and as such, it's hard for me to suspend disbelief while watching a film. With the performances here, I was absolutely able to set aside my belief, and get into the media.
The writing and cinematography are excellent in Immortality, but the performances are the glue that makes this stick in my mind.
I decided to play Immortality on a whim one night. I was familiar with Barlow's prior works, Her Story and Telling Lies, but I did not have any background on this game when I started it. Going into the game as blind as possible was a great choice, and I'm very, very happy that I decided to try it. If you are a fan of cinema and like a good interactive story, this is close to the best that I've seen.
Immortality runs about $20 if you choose to buy it, and can be played on either PC/XBOX via Gamepass, or on mobile with a Netflix account. I played it on Gamepass, but I would have happily paid a Jackson for it. Now, I've managed to avoid making a Lynch reference until now, but I will say that I'd recommend playing on console or PC. It's hard to have a solid cinematic experience on your phone.
If you enjoy thriller films, you'll likely enjoy Immortality.
We like to discuss media every so often, whether it is in the form of films, games, or books. Here's a few of my recent reviews:
We've got more gaming content in the pipeline, so be on the lookout for that. My next one will be making you ask the question;
"Where's everyone going? Bingo?"
Images courtesy of Half Mermaid Productions.