I truly love the work of Dontnod Entertainment . Not a single game of the studio can even be called flawless, but I was always attracted by their interesting ideas, pleasant design and the efforts put into them. I would like the French team to finally take a step forward and break into the highest echelon of the industry, but Twin Mirror clearly will not help them in this matter. Unfortunately, this is not even a step back it is a somersault to the bottom of the well.
As an introduction, the game immediately dumps a mountain of exposure onto the audience. Our hero’s name is Sam: he is a gloomy journalist, he has a lot of mental problems, and he had to return to his hometown of Basswood for the funeral of his best friend. Several years ago, Sam could not bear the burden of personal problems and fled from there in search of a better life, so returning to his small homeland is not easy for him.
Every second city dweller openly hates the hero for his journalistic activities, his beloved has long gone to his now deceased friend, and every street is full of painful memories from the past.
Already in the first minutes, Twin Mirror seems to collect almost all detective cliches: the death of a friend, short-term amnesia, a dark hero-genius on pills, an ex-girlfriend, a difficult past. The filing method is also not the most successful. It seems that the mood of the game is more conducive to a leisurely and thoughtful exploration of locations, but the pace of the plot, on the contrary, drives forward.
Almost all the characters appear in the first location, from the doorway explain to Sam their claims, problems and grievances, after which … they disappear from the game, so that in the future they will appear just a couple of times and not do anything remarkable.
At first, Twin Mirror is saved only by the atmosphere: the game looks good and constantly pleases with the magnificent views of West Virginia. Basswood is not devoid of the charm of one-story America, familiar from Life is Strange . The only pity is that there are very few locations in the game. The pace of the plot does not allow you to properly immerse yourself in the surroundings.
Clouded Reflections In Twin Mirror
The Twin Mirror gameplay is also not happy – it came out empty even by the standards of interactive cinema. There are surprisingly few dialogues here and there are practically no moments where you need to consistently convince or talk someone. It’s also sparse with puzzles: a couple of times the game forces us to find a password for a lock or a computer, but these puzzles are so simple that the authors seem to try to skip them as soon as possible.
There is almost no action in Twin Mirror either and this evokes such melancholy. That I would even be delighted with QTE, but they are not included in the program either.
What remains in the end? Long, almost devoid of interactivity cutscenes and short walks through a few locations. The best that Twin Mirror has to offer in terms of gameplay is the local “palaces of the mind”, which look intriguing, but in practice turned out to be pretty goofy.
The Mind Halls are Sam’s literal subconscious, where he conducts his investigations and tries to deal with the demons within. For example, the fight against growing panic is framed as an escape from an abstract enemy through an obstacle course. The idea is interesting, and it is visualized perfectly, but the essence of such moments comes down to primitive mini-games in which you can’t even play: no disclosure of the hero’s psyche, no influence on his state.
The same goes for investigations. First, Sam collects evidence in the real world, and then tries to recreate events in the subconscious. But on paper it sounds more interesting than in practice. Twin Mirror does not allow the player to make mistakes. Incorrect options do not lead to anything, and the game in plain text suggests trying a different sequence of evidence.
This kills the whole spirit of the detective: when the plot pulls us by the handle, and our assumptions do not affect anything. Then why bother if you can find the right option by brute force? Moreover, brute force is the best way, because the logic of the riddles is often completely unclear.
Me, Me again and Again, Bad Script
It’s fair to say that the developers never advertised Twin Mirror as a game with complex gameplay and serious detective mechanics. Obviously, the authors relied heavily on the plot, but even here the player will only be disappointed. The story looks as if it was simply not finish after the first draft. The central intrigue is so predictable that some kind of catch suggests itself, but it is not. If you didn’t guess from the very beginning how it would end.
One of the main plot failures is the characters, and especially the main characters. The game almost from the start requires empathy for Sam and his ex-girlfriend. But does not have time to tell at least something about their characters and past. There is no question of any “chemistry” between them, too, so Sam’s suffering does not cause an emotional response. In addition, from time to time he commits such stupid acts that it is difficult to sympathize with him, or at least feel sympathy.
The only bright spot in the script is “He”. Sam’s imaginary friend and alter ego. If the palaces of the mind were just a good, but insufficiently revealed idea. Then “He” is really the best thing in the game. And at the same time, the only character in which the writers have put at least some humor and irony. He does not go into his pocket for a word and tries to teach Sam to trust people.
The protagonist resists these moralizing, which makes their internal dialogs really interesting to watch. Especially when “He” bursts in in the middle of a conversation with another character. Such scenes are perfectly present in game and feel extremely fresh. For example, during a conversation with someone from the local, time may suddenly stop while Sam discusses the situation with his second person. But it also happens that the player has to decide in real time who to listen to.
Unfortunately, the ending of the game completely spoils the pleasant aftertaste from these scenes. Naturally, no self-respecting detective can do without a plot twist in the final. But here it turns out to be humiliatingly obvious. And the delivery of this turn is right to match the content. We just indifferently observe how Sam suddenly discovers the truth from scratch. And in the next scene the game tells how it all ended. And that’s it, enjoy the credits.
During this time, it is just possible to calculate how many storylines did not lead anywhere and how many characters the authors simply forgot.
This time, Dontnod Entertainment Failed In Twin Mirror
Twin Mirror has neither a good plot nor a detective riddle. Almost all characters lack elaboration, so a deeply existential story about Sam’s problems did not work out. And if the previous games of the studio could attract the player at least with a bright design or interesting ideas. Then Twin Mirror is a bunch of unrealized ideas hopelessly broken into many small fragments. And there is no good reason to try to piece them together.
Playing Twin Mirror is like playing a mediocre series on a random episode. You seem to be watching the characters investigate something and move somewhere. But their actions do not cause the viewer either interest or sympathy