A cars and truck drives down a peaceful roadway, previous rows of trees, till you ultimately look a town, its long-abandoned factories extending into the horizon. The images are accompanied by a sombre tune by folk artist Sean Rowe. Welcome to Basswood, West Virginia.
It’s a remarkable method to begin, not least due to the fact that of how excellent Twin Mirror looks, and Dontnod understands it – simply a couple of minutes prior to reaching his location, lead character Sam Higgs leaves his automobile and glances down at Basswood from a perspective awash in the rays of the setting sun. But then Sam opens his mouth – and things undoubtedly go downhill from there. Sam has actually gone back to his home town to attend his buddy Nick’s funeral service. Trouble is, as Sam puts it, he’s ghosted Nick for 2 years after leaving Basswood in a rush, and now Nick’s ghosting him by being dead. This, possibly 5 minutes into the video game, is the very first minute I put the controller down and checked out a fictional electronic camera like I’m on The Office, due to the fact that this is the kind of composing you remain in for.
Sam utilized to be an investigative press reporter at the Basswood Jungle, where he discovered the regional mine’s infraction of security procedures. His reporting caused the closure of stated mine, and to a great deal of mad miners, who welcome Sam with the breeding call of every imaginary bully to his victim of option: “Well, well, well, appearance who we have here!” It emerges rather rapidly that nobody in Basswood is strictly speaking a good individual, not to each other and definitely not to Sam, who many citizens have actually chosen was solitarily accountable for the death of the town.
Here’s the point at which I would generally discover an excellent bridge to Twin Mirror’s investigator gameplay and Sam’s mind palace, a fictional place he sometimes accesses memories from, however that likewise works as a criminal offense fixing gadget, or the reality that Sam has a change ego called “Him” who keeps getting included. But I can’t, honestly due to the fact that the video game itself can’t discover a method to inform you why these aspects exist or how they are linked. Anyway, Sam gets up after a bar brawl gone so bad he has no memory of that part of his night, which results in him learning about, and therefore examining, Nick’s murder.
Sam returns to the bar to exercise what took place, and after discovering various pieces of proof, he enters his mind palace to rebuild occasions in an aesthetically rather spectacular method, comparable to the restoration mechanics in video games like Detroit: Become Human and The Sinking City.
Before you can link the dots nevertheless, you require to discover proof in a specific order. The order remains in no other way apparent, which leads you to take a number of laps around a criminal offense scene to either discover things that are plainly there however can’t be communicated with yet, or to you all of a sudden discovering products that have actually appeared out of no place in locations you formerly browsed. Once Sam has actually discovered whatever, you can listen to his reductions and choose what took place. There’s no charge for not concerning the best conclusion, you can blend and match various hypotheses prior to evaluating them. Once you have actually put occasions in the best order, Sam will have a eureka minute of sorts, and describe what took place. Twin Mirror has about 3 such circumstances of investigator gameplay, all of them not just dull reasons for examinations (“discover the important things that makes a sound suspiciously like a set of blinds rusting in the wind”) however likewise entirely approximate – each time Sam states he’s learnt how things certainly took place, the alternative results are really no less possible. This kind of investigator work is absolutely nothing you’d require a mind palace for. It’s likewise not how a mind palace works, which I’m discussing due to the fact that a mind palace, utilized properly, might have been an extremely intriguing investigative tool in a video game.
Twin Mirror plainly isn’t the video game it was expected to be. In advancement by a smaller sized group within Dontnod – unrelated to Life Is Strange – considering that 2016, it was revealed in 2018, then later on postponed following lukewarm sneak peeks in 2019. It likewise went from a three-episode video game to a single video game of approximately 6 to 7 hours. I think the video game was greatly cut – you’ll observe it in some cases in the method discussion seems like it’s describing discussions that ought to have occurred, however didn’t, or the method scenes will follow onto each other in such a way that makes me believe something was expected to be occurring in-between. The numerous products you can take a look at in every place frequently come without voiced discussion, most likely due to spending plan restraints. As excellent as the visuals are, they’re squandered on a commercial town – a video game can look as excellent as it wishes to, it will still appear dull if there’s absolutely nothing to see. As detailed as the character’s faces are, they have beside no facial expressions, primarily simply opening and closing their mouths, which is tough to ignore when whatever else is so comprehensive.
At this point, you might mark Twin Mirror down as regrettable and stop, however you’ll observe I have not discussed Him yet. A mind palace, as funky as this one looks, is a memory technique anyone can learn, but Sam doesn’t just have a mind palace, he also talks to an imaginary person and gets lost in his own head to the point he becomes unresponsive. There are also segments in which Sam becomes presumably so stressed and upset (I have to say presumably because like many things in this game it’s just not clear enough) that you have to play a mini-game to calm him down.
Dontnod never commits to giving Sam’s behaviour a name, but it reads like an attempt to depict someone on the autistic spectrum. As a developer with a strong record of tackling mental and socio-political issues in their games, Dontnod does itself no favours with being noncommittal, but it also becomes painfully obvious that this was likely the better choice in Twin Mirror’s case because to me it feels like no research went into the portrayal of a neurodivergent person. After Dontnod finally took steps to actively work with the people it’s portraying by collaborating with GLAAD for Tell Me Why, this is an especially disappointing step backwards.
As someone the game is indirectly portraying, however coyly, I also find Twin Mirror to be quite insulting. Sam is supposedly someone who has trouble with social cues and finding the correct way to talk to people, so he has “Him” as a sort of angel on his shoulder, Sam’s “socially well-adjusted” part, as the game puts it. Trouble is you never actually see Sam having problems. All you know about Sam’s behaviour, and in fact most of his relationships, is delivered second-hand. People will say things to him like, “Don’t be that way you can be” or “Are you doing your, you know, thing right now?” and no one will elaborate.
The tenor of every conversation is that Sam is weird, while the dialogue choices always present you with completely normal, if slight crotchety options, and most importantly, the option to be as pleasant as a peach is also always available. Had Dontnod gone through the effort to actually present some sort of emotional turmoil or, you know, shown his difficulty with social interaction, Sam might have been an example of much-needed representation, however as it is you see a man understandably struggling to deal with everyone being an arse to him. A prominent example of Sam’s “weird behaviour” is disappearing off the map because his hometown just branded him a traitor and his girlfriend abruptly left him. Sure, it’s not stellar behaviour, however it’s not something only a person with mental disabilities would do. Worse, within what’s roughly one day of in-game time Sam will magically cure himself from his weirdness, in a sequence that is as confusing as it is patronising. It’s maddening and actively harmful that Twin Mirror conflates developmental problems with being a dick simply due to the fact that the writers seemingly couldn’t do the research required.
So much of Twin Mirror is left completely up to interpretation because it always refers to situations you as the player didn’t get to see, leaving you with no connection to any of the characters. As a result, the video game is simply uniformly awkward. From decisions that lead absolutely nowhere, to characters that are paper-thin, the writing veers wildly in tone, and the gameplay wastes all of its potential. I was so excited to see the Dontnod formula applied to a story about adults, however Twin Mirror is simply not that video game.