Twin Mirror is the latest game from Dontnod Entertainment, the masters of narrative-driven games like the critically acclaimed Life is Strange series, Vampyr and Tell me Why. However this time around ‘Twin Mirror’ comes as the first self-published game from the studio. It is also a new genre of Phycological thriller, unlike Dontnod’s previous titles.
So what exactly is ‘Twin Mirror’?
The game centres around the character of Sam Higgs, an investigative journalist who is returning to his home town of Basswood after 2 years to attend the funeral of his best friend Nick.
Yet right off the bat, you realise there is more to Sam’s character than meets the eye. There are effectively two parts to Sam which are shown visually throughout the game. There’s Sam Higgs and then there’s Him. He is the ‘imaginary friend’ or the ‘conscience’ of Sam’s mind, visually manifested as a separate entity that will follow Sam and give him and you (the player) guidance throughout the game on what choices to make.
We also see into Sam’s head in the form of his ‘Mind Palace’. A peaceful place where all his thoughts and memories are stored and where he can rationally play out scenarios. This is really interesting narratively as it gives Sam’s character real depth as we see his reasoning for the actions he takes and we also delve into his thought process of figuring out a scenario in order to understand the most logical outcome.
Now in terms of story, it plays out in the town of Basswood. This is a typical West Virginian town often depicted in shows like ‘Twin Peaks’ (which I believe inspired a lot of Dontnod’s work). It’s a town where everyone knows everyone, where rumours spread like wildfire and secrets lurk behind the most unsuspecting residents.
Sam is here for one thing and one thing only, to attend his friends funeral and depart soon after. His reputation in town is left little to be desired by its inhabitants after the article he wrote about the unsafe working conditions of the towns mine forced the mine to close and in turn making many of its workers jobless. So you will see a lot of resentment towards Sam throughout the game.
I’m going to keep this next bit brief and spoiler-free as I don’t want to ruin the story.
Before attending the wake for Sam’s friend Nick, you are greeted by Nick’s daughter Joan, who believes her father’s death was no accident and wants you to look into it. Now depending on what choice you make here, you can either give Joan hope that you will investigate or you can disappoint her by saying no. Either way, the events that follow tie you into a path of investigation to solve a murder. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
For gameplay ‘Twin Mirror’ opts for a very simple approach. Some might argue that this game could easily pass off as a walking sim, I would say yes, but there’s more to it than that. In traditional Dontnod fashion, there are plenty of interactable items scattered around each scene to trigger an internal monologue or thought from Sam. This could be to trigger a memory in his mind palace, which allows us to find out more about him. Other times interacting with objects allows us to find out more about the town and it’s cast of characters.
The mind palace segments of the game varies the gameplay for you. Outside of the mind palace you walk around interacting with objects and talking to people, while in the mind palace you can use evidence that you have collected to create a hypothesis of how you think a certain situation has played out. There are other more artsy and psychological segments based in the mind palace throughout the game but to delve into them would spoil parts of the story.
Given how much I enjoyed the story the game had to offer, there are some unfortunate setbacks that have dragged this game down. The first being the load times. For a game coming out in 2020, I would expect less and fewer load times and seamless gameplay. I understand the science behind it, especially when going from one level to the next. The thing that really frustrated me was during scene 6 where you are walking through town talking to people to find a character. In this scene, there is a drug store and a coffee shop that you need to go into. Now while I’m playing I’d imagine going from an outdoor environment to and indoor environment like the coffee shop for example (still within the same scene) to be seamless. However, it wasn’t and I was met by a loading screen where I had to wait 10 seconds or more. I know this could sound petty, but it broke the immersion of that scene for me.
However, one aspect that I did love about this game (but at times was a tad hit and miss) was the facial designs and animations. They looked at life like and very well designed. The only downside was the lips often didn’t sync up well with the dialogue of the characters. Also Sam’s character too often only had one facial expression for everything. I did look past this during my playthroughs, however, I wouldn’t expect this to have been a problem for a game in 2020.
Overall there were some technical issues like facial animations, odd glitches and load times which brought me out of my immersion. I would hope these to be addressed in a later patch or update. Yet they did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the game.
‘Twin Mirror’ is a game about choice, you carve your own path via the choices you make throughout the game. If you play the game once you can play it differently the second time with a completely different outcome. That’s what I love about Dontnod’s game and their outlook towards stories. Giving a narrative-driven game with the player choice that allows for a unique and immersive experience.
‘Twin Mirror’ gets an 8/10 for its immersive narrative and complex & engaging main character.
Twin Mirror is available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
This review was based on a PlayStation 4 playthrough. You can purchase the game here for £24.99.
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