Between Life is Strange 1 & 2 and Tell Me Why, DONTNOD Entertainment have shown that they’re master of the narrative adventure. While they’ve also released games in other genres, like Remember Me and Vampyr, Narrative Adventures seem to be their true niche now. After the success of their past games and a PC exclusivity deal with Epic Games, DONTNOD have now been able to enter the world of self-publishing with Twin Mirror, a psychological thriller. We had the chance to go hands-on with the first couple of hours of Twin Mirror, in a special PC preview build that covered the opening two hours, so read on for our impressions.
Twin Mirror follows Sam Higgs, an ex-investigative journalist returning to the place he grew up for the first time since fleeing it years before. He’s there to attend the funeral and wake of a close friend and ex-colleague Nick, who passed away in a car accident. Returning to town, it’s clear that there’s a lot of tension and backstory, as the reactions to Sam’s arrival range from happiness to outright hostility. Talking to the people at the wake gives you some backstory, and you begin to piece together that Sam wrote an article that contributed to the closure of the local mine which left many of the townsfolk out of work. By the time I finished the preview there were still plenty of unanswered questions regarding that.
Much of this Twin Mirror preview build, and presumably the full game, is about talking to the people of the town, learning about them and building or destroying relationships. Sam isn’t much a people person himself, so this is where The Double comes in. The Double is effectively another version of Sam; a more social version that gives Sam advice throughout the game. This tied into the key choices and moments of the preview in a couple of ways: Some key choices would present two options, Sam’s approach and The Double approach, while The Double would also help calm Sam down and provide context at other moments. It’s an interesting way of including multiple viewpoints to a single scenario, without the inclusion of multiple bespoke characters, and it works well with Sam’s seeming isolationism.
Quickly, talking to Nick’s daughter, it becomes apparent that she doesn’t believe that her father’s death was the accident the police have determined it was. Asking for your help to investigate his death, it’s up to you to determine your approach to the investigation. Often, you’re given the choice in conversations to either bring up the topic of your investigation or be friendly and talk to them about less confronting topics. Pushing the wrong people can cause them to lash out and refuse to talk to you further, while others are more amenable to your questions. This becomes more apparent as you learn about the various inhabitants of the town, although in our short time with the game we weren’t able to delve beyond surface level gleaning for most characters. Still, what we saw was enough to have us interested in the characters and wanting to learn more about them and their history. The story itself was slightly slow to start, but by the time the preview finished it had me hooked.
Throughout all of this, Sam uses a variety of investigative techniques to aid his investigations. The most common is questions during conversations, where you’ll try and glean more information on a certain topic. Reach certain points in your investigation and you’ll begin searching an area for clues to help you determine what occurred at the scene of the investigation. Once you have all the clues, it’s time to use the Mind Palace. The Mind Palace is the in-game representation of the various analytical skills Sam has developed over the years. The Mind Palace appeared in a few different forms, but here it appears as a visual representation of the hypothesised occurrence you’re investigating. You then make selections on what you believed happened and validate that. In other situations, the Mind Palace appears as an otherworldly place where Sam is able to replay memories of his past. It has a crystalline style that is cool to see and is also an engaging way to play out investigations on screen.
One other thing we want to comment on, is the fact that Twin Mirror has characters with real proportions and body shapes. In so many games, all of the characters you find are either relatively attractive or hideous, often with not much in between. Even in the first couple of hours I played on Twin Mirror, it was clear the team have gone to pains to create characters that look and feel like real people. Not everyone is some attractive hunk or hideous monster, they just look like real people, and that’s something we really appreciate.
The Twin Mirror preview was a good, generous chunk of the game, that gave us a good impression of what to expect from the full release. The story started slow but pulled us in by the end of the preview, the characters were interesting and Sam’s analytic and investigative powers were well represented on screen. We’re excited to see more of Twin Mirror in the future, as the game seems to be shaping up well.
Twin Mirror releases on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on December 1st. For more information, check out the official website.