|Release Date||August 27, 2020|
**A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Xbox for review purposes**
I will be the first person to say that I don’t normally like story-based games where you’re essentially just walking around finding clues. I just never saw the appeal of them and I always got pretty bored. That all changed when I played Dontnods Life is Strange and I realized that there is a place in the gaming ecosystem for games like this and that they can really pull you in. I’ve been a Dontnod fan ever since and have been really invested in their stories. This continues with their latest game, Tell Me Why, which had me not wanting to put the controller down as I tried to piece together this not-so-secret murder mystery.
Tell Me Why is tells its story through the perspectives of twins Alyson and Tyler Ronan who have finally been reunited 10 years after their mother’s death. We quickly learn that these twins can communicate with each other telepathically (it seems that Dontnod likes to veer in the supernatural territory) and even watch memories that they’ve had from their childhood in their own perspectives. This is how our story starts to unfold as we learn more and more details from the way that the twins communicate with their minds.
I really love these visions for how simple it is to open up the gameplay with them. One of the early moments in the game has Alyson and Tyler talking to each other in their minds while in the middle of a real conversation with someone else. It allows them to talk about how they want to approach a certain situation without tipping off someone else. The way they can recall certain memories also opens up new dialogues options as Alyson may remember a situation differently than Tyler and vice-versa. Sometimes this opens up new dialogue options that weren’t there before. This can allow you to find out information that you otherwise might not have come across. You can choose which memory to believe but you’ll never be quite sure what the truth is and what isn’t. It’s all subjective to what you choose to believe which adds a lot of realism to the story.
The story revolves around how one twin killed their mom in self-defense. This is revealed very early in the game so I don’t feel like it’s much of a spoiler and it’s something we need to talk about to review this game. The central plot of the story is to find out what drove this loving mother to threaten to kill one of her children. The twins never got the closure that they needed and it really feels like nothing they find out over the course of their lives will truly bring them the peace that they seek.
I didn’t like the way that Dontnod portrayed the mother (Mary-Ann). It felt like they were trying to show both sides of her personality but they seemed to be more biased towards her more negative behaviour. She did handcraft the twins’ toys, sew them clothes, and read them bedtime stories but she still seems like a largely negative character. The main issue I had with this is that her mental health issues weren’t properly explored as well as they could have been.
The choices you make in Tell Me Why don’t feel like they hold a lot of weight in the story from my perspective. There weren’t many situations where I wasn’t sure what I was going to pick right away. It does tell you whether it affects the relationship positively or negatively but it rarely makes much of a difference. There are exceptions here and there where you have to recall information but that’s not the norm. There are even times when you can say nothing. Even then, though, your character tends to give some type of response so it doesn’t feel like much of an option. I just didn’t feel the weight of my decisions like I expected that I would which took away from my experience a little bit.
There were some puzzles in Tell Me Why that were really interesting in the way that they were implemented. The answers are tied-into Mary-Ann’s Book of Goblins which is a fairytale book from the twins’ childhood. It can be kind of weird to read through a book like this to get the answers you need but I thought it was a really unique thing to do and I liked the break in the gameplay that these puzzles provided. There were other mini-games like fishing with Alyson’s friend Micheal or a warehouse pillow fight that also brought up the mood just a bit in one can be an emotional game at times.
Tell Me Why has a trans character as its central focus. I thought Dontnod did a fantastic job introducing this fact to us through the exploration of Tyler’s dorm room as he packs his things up to see Alyson and the conversations he has with her. It’s organic and I was happy to see that they didn’t introduce this through intolerance. I will say that there is a moment early in the game where a minor character, Sam, didn’t realize Alyson had a brother and said some rather ignorant comments. There are a few instances like this in the game but I felt like Dontnod stayed on the line by crafting a story that is sensitive to the persecution a trans person may face while not making it the main focus.
I really loved playing this game. Tyler and Alyson were both great main characters that had a lot of layers to them that I was able to peel back and see even if my choices weren’t that easily felt. There are a lot of lulls here and there but it was fun to piece together this story together and at less than 10 hours, it doesn’t take a huge time investment. Trophy/achievement hunters will be happy to know that you can replay parts of the story to collect anything that you missed or see the alternate choice you could have made.
|Good story overall||Choices don’t feel impactful|
|Interesting mini-games||A few dull stretches|