This second offering by veteran game designer Sam Barlow (creator of Her Story) is exceptionally well designed, written and acted. Telling Lies has the emotional weight of a film or TV show drama, and while it pays nostalgic homage to the FMV (Full Motion Video) games of the 1980s, its themes regarding online communication and government surveillance couldn't be more contemporary. Your job, as the game's anonymous protagonist, is to watch a series of video files, spying on private citizens' video chat in hopes of uncovering a terrorist plot. Depending on your feelings about voyeurism, this can be thrilling or highly uncomfortable. It's definitely compelling watching people reveal their most private selves, but knowing you're not the intended recipient of these revelations is unsettling, and looking for ways to use these people's words against them is even more troubling. It's engrossing to play this game on a computer, but when you're playing on a console (especially the Switch), the drama feels a bit more intimate, which ratchets up the thrill and discomfort factor.
Telling Lies brilliantly illustrates the moral gray area of government surveillance by putting you in the dubious position of invading people's private lives in the name of National Security. Questions regarding activism, duty, and political and corporate corruption are at the forefront here, and none of them comes with an easy answer. The live-action video really ups the emotional ante, because the dialog is surprisingly well-written, and is carried off perfectly by Logan Marshall-Green (The O.C., Law & Order,) Kerry Bishe (Scrubs, Halt and Catch Fire) and Alexandra Shipp (the X-Men franchise). With a veritable mountain of video to sift through, and so many interesting possibilities to find, this is one interactive story that plays like a top-notch page-turner -- you can't put it down until it's done. All told, Telling Lies is an object lesson in good interactive design and thriller-style storytelling. But its adult themes and presentation make it a game you buy for yourself, not your kids.