At the recent Future Games Show, an extended trailer was presented for Immortality, the next game from Sam Barlow, creator of Her Story and Telling Lies. The game is being self-published by Half Mermaid Productions, also co-founded by Sam Barlow.
For the past year, Barlow has kept the details of his next FMV thriller closely guarded. Anyone who wanted to learn more about the game would have to dig for clues about it, much like the protagonists of his previous full-motion interactive mysteries, Her Story and Telling Lies. From Barlow’s social media posts and the initial game page on the Steam store, one could infer that it’s set in at least three different time periods (1968, 1970, and 1999) and involves the disappearance of fictional actress Marissa Marcel. Beyond that, it was mostly speculation based on playfully redacted in-universe classified documents.
We now know that Marcel appeared in three different films that were never released. “They are thought to be lost or destroyed,” as noted on the game’s updated Steam page. Players will investigate archive footage from the movies to piece together what happened to her.
Unlike Barlow’s previous games, which used keywords to pull up new footage, players will explore the archive reels via “match cut.” Players will zoom and enhance different visual elements—like hairstyles, props, camera angles, facial expressions—to find other scenes that they appeared in. That means Immortality shares gameplay elements with point-and-click graphic adventures and hidden object puzzles, potentially introducing Barlow’s work to a different kind of niche gamer.
Barlow worked with co-writers on Immortality, setting it apart from his earlier titles. All of them are veterans of well-regarded psychological fare in different media. Allan Scott was the screenwriter for Don’t Look Now, the cult 1973 supernatural conspiracy thriller. Amelia Gray’s writing credits include Mr. Robot and Netflix psychodrama Maniac. Barry Gifford co-wrote the screenplay of Lost Highway with David Lynch, and penned the novel Wild at Heart, which was also adapted for screen by Lynch.
Immortality offers potential spot-the-reference teases for middlebrow arthouse cinephiles. It appears that each film is from a different genre. Ambrosio (1968) gave its name to Immortality’s working title (“Project Ambrosio”), and is described as an “adaptation of M. G. Lewis’s notorious Gothic novel The Monk,” yet another fictional work. The poster and teaser footage suggest that it’s inspired by Italian giallo horror movies, such as Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977). Minsky (1970) looks like a Hitchcock-style thriller, featuring Marcel as a famous artist’s muse who’s suspected of murdering him. And finally Two of Everything (1999) marks the end of a long hiatus for Marcel, as she plays a successful pop star and her body double. That may bring to mind Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue (1997) and Darren Aronofksy’s Black Swan (2010).
The overall vibe we’ve seen so far suggests there will be more unsettling elements than Barlow’s other work. Indeed, Sam Barlow and co have outright referred to Immortality as “investigative horror”. Let’s just hope that the end result is more The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker and less Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh. We’ll find out when Immortality launches Summer 2022 for Xbox Series X|S and as a Day One launch on Game Pass.