Dontnod Entertainment Studio did an unprecedented thing five years ago. She was able to persuade a number of adult men to take on the role of an emotional high school girl and passionately discuss whether to save their girlfriend or the rest of the coastal town.
Life is Strange has become synonymous with a quality story adventure, but unfortunately it stands out significantly from the team’s portfolio. Neither 2013’s debut Remember Me, nor anything released after the first series of Life is Strange, can match the story of Max Caulfield in its intervention in game history. The closest was perhaps the three-year-old Vampire, but even that eventually failed to fulfill the ambitious promises that revolved around him during the long development.
Last year, Dontnod managed to release two adventures – the episodic Tell Me Why, which attracted attention perhaps only historically by the first cast of a transgender character in the lead role, and Twin Mirror, which we look at today. Unfortunately, we must prepare you in advance for the fact that this time is no miracle either.
Welcome back, Sam
A young man arrives in the town of Basswood in Virginia, USA. His name is Sam, he is a journalist and for the last two years he has been anxiously trying to forget about this place. For him, it is synonymous with rejection and also hatred of the locals, as he deprived many of them of their work with his article on the local mine. And the reason for his return can’t be more unpleasant – his best friend (who hasn’t answered his phones for the last two years) died in a car accident.
You won’t miss the funeral, but the ordeal in the local bar will sketch the nature of important members of the local community, it can exacerbate some of the old wounds, or restore old relationships. But the little daughter of Sam’s late friend Nick, above all, puts a beetle in the head of our protagonist – his accident seems very suspicious and quite possibly it was not an accident at all.
After a few major decisions, such as whether or not to hug a chubby old acquaintance, or whether to hug or hug your ex, Sam pours a few beers and we see him next time in a local motel, where an unpleasant maid is trying to kick him out. The headache then deepens the finding of a bloody shirt in the bathtub, which spins a carousel of suspicion, searching and trying to figure out what is actually happening in the sleepy town.
All the same
In terms of playability, the Twin Mirror does not deviate in any way from the established manuscript of its authors. You won’t find much interactivity here, the main emphasis is on the film impression. However, the game contains collectible items that can inspire you to replay through a special Collector mode. Thanks to them, you can get a slightly better insight into Sam’s memories and circumstances around Basswood.
What kind of adventure from Dontnod would it be if the protagonist didn’t have some supernatural abilities. Sam can go to his Palace of Mind, go back through the memories and examine the events in detail. In addition to depression, he also has a bifurcated personality, his slightly more entertaining self, which encourages him to behave more cordially during the game.
The ideas are nice, but unfortunately they don’t make Twin Mirror a fun game. Although in the beginning the plot looks quite promising, very quickly everything falls into an uninteresting gray. Sam is desperately emaciated, unsympathetic and without charisma. The vast majority of the town’s inhabitants only function as a staff member, which increases the number of potential suspects. None of them, not even Sam’s ex-Anna, got a sufficiently well-drawn personality.
If nothing else, Life is Strange was able to arouse emotions decently. There was only one Twin Mirror awakened – the burning anger at how incredibly SLOW the main character was scrolling through the screens. Indeed, if you load the analog lever, you will be able to make coffee and spread the croissant while moving from one end of the screen to the other.
Nicer than before
We understand that the authors probably wanted to allow players to get enough of the visual processing. Twin Mirror contains a number of nice scenes, despite the fact that technically it is still no miracle and the game does not reach the ankles of a genre relative from the Supermassive Games workshop. Fortunately, at least she got rid of the repulsive stylization of older Dontnod games and is closer to Vampire than Life is Strange.
The mentioned Palace of Mind is then literally great in its design. It is an environment that is constantly changing its form and resembles the real human mind in a special way. Come here to solve logical puzzles and, above all, to have conversations with your other self, which is obviously portrayed as Sam imagines himself, or at least he would like to be.
The music was also successful, one of the aspects where Dontnod is confident in the cramps, whether it’s licensed songs or the work of Olivier Derivier, who, in addition to Remember Me or Vampyr, worked on A Plague Tale: Innocence or GreedFall.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about inconsistent dubbing. Especially Sam is unbearable with his sighed inner monologues, and unfortunately he can comment on anything that comes his way, including warning signs.
Like next time
In addition, given the nature of the game, it’s a pity that the vast majority of conversations or decisions have absolutely no effect on the story or any of its five possible climaxes, the bread starts to break relatively late, and you have to spend a lot to try.
The themes that the game touches on are interesting in their theme. In the conclusion, which comes after about six hours, however, we did not feel that she would be able to process them sufficiently, or that they would have any influence on our story or Sam’s development. In the finale, it is a completely average experience and in a few weeks, the nuances of the story will reliably disappear from our memory.
It’s a shame, because Dontnodu can’t be denied that he can build interesting stories, characters you want to know more about, and he can also skillfully strum on emotional strings.
In recent years, however, it certainly does not prove it. Maybe it’s time to take a break, not have several projects in the process at once (plus for different publishers) and try to return to the top of the genre. The competition is not so great.