Telling Lies

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Telling Lies Game Poster Image
Mature adventure explores the limits of law enforcement.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters' actions and realistic relationships are complex and often morally vague. Players are trying to prevent a terrorist conspiracy, but the choice of spying into someone's lives and even the actions characters take can be very questionable.

Positive Role Models

Good-guy/bad-guy status varies depending on your point of view. Even the characters that seem like they're protagonists tend to make bad choices.

Ease of Play

Video and search mechanics are easy to learn and easy to use, but progress requires thought and clue recognition. Players need to rely upon writing their own notes for keywords or search terms to uncover the plot.


Characters are shown being roughly arrested, as well as pointing and shooting guns, and even committing suicide. No blood or gore is shown in gameplay.


Female characters are shown in revealing clothes. There are sexual references and implied masturbation in some scenes, and one character's a sex worker. 


Strong, but infrequent language including words like "f--k," "goddamn," "bitch," and "s--t." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters appear at and also talk about a tavern, but nothing's shown during gameplay.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Telling Lies is a downloadable live-action adventure/simulation game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The storyline centers itself around voyeurism, privacy issues, and Internet security as players attempt to uncover a terrorist plot. Video clips contain infrequent but strong profanity (words like “f--k,” “s--t,” and goddamn”) and suggestive content in the form of revealing clothes on female characters, racy conversations, and implied masturbation. One character is also described as a sex worker. Videos include violence as characters shoot guns, commit acts of terrorism, are violently arrested by police, and even commit suicide. The game's complex moral themes are best suited to an adult audience since they're explored through mature, often difficult conversations about marriage, infidelity, and unplanned pregnancy. There are also complex examinations of topics through dialog revolving around concepts like loyalty, self-sacrifice, and patriotism. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byJames472 September 5, 2019

More of the same, but still incredible.

The gameplay feels very similar to Her Story (A game by the same developer), but I felt this was overall a better game compared to Her Story. The story was incr... Continue reading
Adult Written bySam M. September 5, 2019

Immersive, slightly creepy mystery.

No explicit content. Just very mature themes explored through uncoventional gameplay. One girl is a cam worker but her outfits never get too revealing; and noth... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's it about?

TELLING LIES is a non-linear adventure story told through a collection of live-action video clips. As a female character of unknown identity (she could be a private citizen, a spy, or some kind of government agent), players search through a flash drive full of private video calls collected by the National Security Agency. Players watch these files which detail only one side of a call and have to match them together in hopes of piecing together full conversations and identifying the players in a terrorist conspiracy. Video clips can be sped up, stopped, and scrubbed back and forth so players can scan them for clues. Players can then highlight (and perform searches on) specific terms within the captions to collect additional information on them, track search history, and take notes on their findings.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Internet security. Do your kids know how to protect their online messages from prying eyes? Does it seem like the prying that goes on in Telling Lies could possibly happen today?

  • What's more important to you -- privacy or national security? Are there pros and cons to NSA surveillance?

  • How could data collection could be used to violate a person's civil rights? Is there a limit to an individual citizen's right to privacy? 

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love making tough moral choices

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate