It is no secret, DONTNOD is one of my favorite developers. They make the kind of games that stand out, have an underlying meaning, and feature original mechanics. After playing the Xbox exclusive Tell Me Why and scoring it a rare 100% in our review I was really looking forward to Twin Mirror. While this thriller doesn’t disappoint it isn’t on par with what DONTNOD released earlier. You can’t always strike gold, but it is fascinating that this developer continues to bring out great games with unique mechanics and visuals. Let’s visit our mind palace and explore this review for Twin Mirror.
We played Twin Mirror for six hours on Xbox Series X
What we liked!
- Has some visually stunning key-moments: DONTNOD showed its impressive progress with visuals with the excellent Xbox exclusive Tell Me Why. While Twin Mirror looks less impressive overall it does have some honestly fantastic visual experiences that match the outstanding visual moments in Remedy’s Control. Especially when you enter Sam’s mind palace everything is transformed into a glass-breaking world, the effects here are seriously impressive. The art style switch from the first Life is Strange and the realistic look from Tell Me Why and Twin Mirror is something I can only applaud. They set a believable and beautiful town in West Virginia that invites the player to explore and talk to people.
- Sam’s mind palace, the signature supernatural thing from DONTNOD in Twin Mirror: This alternative reality that freezes time in the real world is where Twin Mirror truly shines. Here clues are put together in a cinematic way with some stunning visual effects, memories are explored, dark and scary puzzle moments happen here too that show Sam’s mental health issues in original ways. Some difficult and timed mechanics are in place here too that affect your story in massive ways, good for replay value but maybe slightly alarming for those that want to have a specific ending. It sets the game apart compared to other detective games like Murdered: Soul suspect or the Sherlock Holmes games.
- A surreal and confronting psychological thriller, worthy of a binge-watch if it was a TV Series on Netflix: What do the two Life is Strange games from DONTNOD, Vampyr, and Tell Me Why have in common? If you haven’t played them before, the answer is the story. This French developer is a master in storytelling, that’s no different in this psychological detective story from Twin Mirror. I do have to say that this has the least interesting story of the bunch but they still do a good job in setting a world with interesting character backstories and a slightly predictable murder story.
- Mental health representation: Sam’s imaginary friend that looks a lot like him is a solid reason why the story remains interesting. He doesn’t have a name, so I decided to call him Sam 2.0. Some weighty situations arise and Sam 2.0 will give advice on how to handle the situation. You are in control, of course, so you don’t have to follow him! It is an interesting concept, Sam’s mental health status comes up a lot in the mind palace too. Or simply by answering honestly in conversations, something that is so, so hard to do in real life. I want to point out how awesome it is that DONTNOD doesn’t shy away from all situations, for example, a transgender main character in Tell Me Why or in this case mental health.
- Big thumbs up for the voice actors! Graham Hamilton does a really good job of delivering a character that constantly switches from fear, confusion, or relieving feelings. Whoever does the castings at DONTNOD can call himself an extremely talented person, so far every single game from this developer has been perfect with voice-casting. It makes such a difference for the story to have a solid performance, while the dialogue’s don’t match previous games it is still remarkable how well they perform it.
- Not all characters deliver: Twin Mirror is heavily leaning on characters, part of what makes the game unique. Most locals in Basswood hate your gut for researching and publishing a destructive whistleblower article that shut down the town’s mine, these forced dialogue moments simply don’t come over well. Multiple reasons cause that, bad dialogue is the main reason and that surprised me a little. Previous games from DONTNOD always had outstanding conversations between characters. Take for example Joan, a young girl who has a love/hate relationship with the protagonist. I’m not entirely sure what her age is, I guess between 6-8 but she speaks to Sam about deep emotions and has a language proficiency of an intellectual elite. It comes over as seeing the realistic movie The Notebook and that suddenly aliens come and cure Noah’s dementia. Another disappointment is that some interesting characters vanish too fast while they still have some missing backstory or potential, it feels like some story elements are rushed to make the 2020 deadline.
What we disliked
- Forced searching, searching, and searching even more for hidden clues: Early in the game, you have to investigate a car crash site that allows me to explain a situation that is a perfect example of how annoying Twin Mirror can become. When you have to find clues to solve what happened you literally have to explore every part of the environment, this wouldn’t be such an issue if it was easier to find what was necessary. The ‘press A to investigate’ pop-up is so sensitive and small that it is easy to miss something important or in the car crash investigations case totally unrelated. The fact that a ‘This doesn’t have anything to do with the car crash’ dialogue on a tree 300 meters away from the crash completely stops your progress is plain silly. Forcing players to find everything, even non-related items is frustrating and slows down the game too much. Sam, the protagonist doesn’t walk fast, to begin with, so getting annoyed is bound to happen. This continues to be an issue in all gameplay moments that require you to find clues, later on, you investigate a bar fight and have to find a small clue, totally unrelated to the fight at the jukebox. Not giving a hint where your last clues are and the detection box that pops-up so hard really do the game harm.
- Performance issues on Xbox Series X: Big frame drops in some scenes and a constant weird to explain frameskip while walking around after dashboarding to Xbox Home troubles the Xbox Series X version. Another example is the long list of third party games that don’t run as expected because of the unfinished third-party tools and support. This inconvenience might be easy to solve, simply don’t press the Xbox home button but you don’t expect this kind of stupid issue when playing on the most powerful console in history. Sound is another issue, completely skipping sound cues or annoying echo’s or sound that remains stuck, hopefully, addressed soon in a patch.
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