Tell me Why is the next game from Dontnod Entertainment, made in coalition with Xbox Game Studios. Announced at the Xbox London event 2019 I was honestly really surprised that Microsoft was working with the French developer, known for Vampyr, Remember Me and one of the few games we gave 100% on LifeisXbox Life is Strange 1 and 2. With Tell me Why they created a one of a kind experience that piqued my interest from the first to the last hour because of the story of the identical twins and their gameplay mechanics. It also features a pretty emotional story about a transgender character that was created with the help of GLAAD, a media organization founded by LGBT people. Divided into three chapters, people have time to discuss and understand what happens in each chapter, it is an eye-opener for many reasons. The game has many topics worth discussing, for example, trophy hunting and pollution. I can’t state this enough but please give it a try, it is one of those emotional experiences that are so rare in videogames. Doubting? Please read our review and let me convince you!
What we liked!
- An unexpected visually impressive game: Life is Strange was a fine example that a good game doesn’t need great graphical setpieces. I wasn’t expecting that Tell me Why was going to be a game that was this impressive for the eyes. Early in the game you have a boat section with large open views over Alaskan forests, and even a cute jumping whale. The game gives you plenty of options to relax and look at every detail in the world. Straight at the beginning, you start at Alyson’s bedroom, it is a perfect indication of how hyper-realistic the environments will be throughout the game. Who would have guessed that Dontnod would deliver one of the nicest looking games for Xbox One after playing the first Life is Strange?
- The Ronan twins, how game characters can become favorites for gamers: There is a big community around Max and Chloe from Life is Strange and I’m pretty sure that the same community and many more will love the two playable characters, Alyson and Tyler Ronan. As adults, it is really addictive to find out more about them by clicking on many of the selectable items in the game world. From small titbits, you really get to know them. Seeing and reliving some of their childhood memories is really special too as if they have been a part of your own life. Things get EXTREMELY emotional regarding Tyler Ronan, you might have heard it before but this character is a transgender. Playing his childhood memories can be really confronting and gives a really good insight into how it must be like for real-life humans born in the wrong body. Also, as expected you will have to make some hard decisions that will change the outcome of what you see and experience, this isn’t as drastic as Life is Strange but it adds a little replay value.
- Soundtrack and voice actors: A deserved huge bow for Erica Lindbeck (twitter) and August Aiden (twitter) for their splendid voice-acting work in Tell me Why, voicing a videogame character is never easy but giving the right emotion for some of the scenes must have been really tough to crack. And as always with Dontnod the soundtrack of this game is another ace in the hole, music songs timed to perfection to give you that goosebumps.
- Supernatural gameplay: I am not going to spoil so this part is really hard to explain but the gameplay twists are really original and fun to play. Important to understand is that this is an interactive “movie” game so much of the fun comes from conversations and exploring the rich world. It is very similar to Life is Strange, so if you played that one you know what to expect. But with some Tell me Why gameplay mechanic twists. I know it is a bit silly to write a review without mentioning more about the gameplay but I really hope other content creators keep things a little in the dark too. As it is so much more exciting to experience it for yourself!
- Story and dialogue: Give developer Dontnod a stick and a stone and they will make an excellent story out of it. They are simply one of the best storytellers in the gaming industry. They aren’t afraid to use some heavily discussed topics as trophy hunting or stuff that you don’t realize when you don’t know any transgenders. It is awful that things you see with Tyler happen with real-life people, I sincerely hope that this is a life changer for some people. How the story plays out is again hard to explain without spoiling but it is neat to have different perspectives from Tyler and Alyson. I wasn’t a big fan of the ending but that might be because I was sad that the game was over.
- Animations: Let me mention the bad first, facial animations could have been a lot better but the overall animations are smooth and realistic. It is a shame that the facial expressions aren’t always believable with what the voice actor is saying. Dontnod seems to be aware of that as they shy away from showing the faces in cinematic scenes, there is room for improvement but it is decent enough to get away with it.
What we disliked
- Small performance quirks: Doesn’t happen on a regular basis but on some rare occasions the game struggles a little to keep the smooth cinematic feeling. These moments pull you straight out of the experience, bringing you back on Earth realizing that you are playing a game. Regardless of these hiccups, the game runs very decently and surprisingly well considering the visuals.
Only a handful of games made me emotional and Tell me Why was one of them. This is an evolution from Life is Strange, every small and big aspect has been improved. Dontnod has the talent to make unique and super interesting characters and that’s no different from the Ronan twins. It gave me food for thought, some subjects are totally new for videogames and I can only praise Microsoft and especially Dontnod to give them attention in Tell me Why. Honestly, I knew I was going to give a 100% from the very first half-hour, this is one of the games I will remember from the Xbox One generation and easily became one of my favorite games of all time.