I've always thought of myself as quite a perceptive person, not to the degree of a detective, but perceptive enough to be able to see things for a little more than they are. So, when the chance arose to get an early look at Dontnod Entertainment's upcoming title, Twin Mirror, I knew it was a perfect opportunity to put my skills to the test.
For those who don't know, Twin Mirror is a twisting adventure title that follows the story of Sam Higgs, an investigative journalist who returns to his hometown to attend a close friend's funeral. Sam, who has a conflicting past with the town of Basswood, due to an article he published of which closed the nearby mine putting many out of jobs - found himself instantly in the frying pan on his return, noting that the residents of Basswood begrudgingly still resent him for the story. After a night of heavy drinking, disaster strikes, and all of a sudden the simple return trip home, becomes a personal case for Sam to solve, one that could either help his relationship with the town, or shatter it into further pieces as he unravels a deep conspiracy.
Anyone who has played a title by Dontnod will recognise the style of gameplay they like to create games around, i.e. narrative heavy adventures - Twin Mirror is very similar. Granted, I have only played the first two hours of the title up to this point, but so far, there is very little physical interaction on your part. Most of what will occur is storytelling, where you are given opportunities to make decisions that will impact the way the tale develops. Being an investigative journalist, often the type of decisions Sam gets to make are deeper than simple conversational filler, where you must understand and empathise with the cast. In Twin Mirror, everyone is part of the case, and you can't rule anyone out, even if they, or maybe even yourself, believe it is you at fault.
Due to Sam's past with the town, conversations are a little more challenging than normal. Your past doesn't sit right with the people, and they will often dip and dodge around conversations with you. That doesn't mean you can't find information any other way, as in Twin Mirror there is an L.A. Noire style of investigating, where you search for clues of which might help solve a particular issue.
For example, during the preview session, Sam gets black-out drunk and gets into a bar fight. You wake up the next day unaware as to what happened, only knowing that the state of your bloody clothes probably means somebody was seriously injured. To decipher this lapse in memory, you head back to the bar to figure out what went wrong, scanning the scene for a plentiful list of clues; a knocked over table, multiple glasses of beer, a business card, some crushed flowers - you can then use Sam's signature Sherlock Holmes style Mind Palace trick to piece all the information together to find a solution.
The Mind Palace is what separates Twin Mirror from other Dontnod titles. When you enter this stage, you leave the normal world behind and enter Sam's mind which is built with a triangular prism style of design, with a clear, light colour palette contrasting the bleaker world of Basswood. Using the Mind Palace you determine the important clues before heading back to reality to piece the string of mysteries together, to form a hypothesis that is then acted out to see if it fits the scene correctly.
The investigations in Twin Mirror seem to be one of the most impressive areas of the title, tied closely with its branching narrative that allows each campaign file to be new in unique ways. Combining this with the diverse, beautiful world of Basswood, which perfectly captures a town lost in its history, both glum and dreary, you can see that Twin Mirror is shaping up to be one of Dontnod's most ambitious projects.
With this being said, I have noticed a few strange issues with the game during my time with the demo build, and granted it is a demo, meaning a lot of this might not make it into the release version. First of all, are the unusual facial animations that make some characters look incredibly realistic and others like they are androids, who can't quite figure out the art of expression. Certain characters will contort weird parts of their faces when they speak, not to the degree that would make it seem like a glitch, but as in a strange tweak of the lips when a normal person wouldn't do so.
Then there's the pacing of the narrative. Now, I understand that building a story is crucial, so taking the time to do it right is important, but sometimes I felt as though so little was achieved over an extended period of time. It often made me hesitant to explore because I just couldn't bear the thought of experiencing a seemingly pointless conversation, which does occur often and are noticeably put in place for you to deal with. Twin Mirror encourages this however, as each decision has a level of importance and will affect future situations, meaning building up the a conversational basis is imperative, but, it just felt so exhausting sometimes.
For what it's worth, this demo did captivate me from start to finish, even if I did show varied interest in conversations with different characters. I really enjoyed getting to investigate scenes, picking up the details and pulling together the mystery in the Mind Palace, and this was something that developed as I had greater freedom to explore parts of Basswood, instead of being locked in a building. I do worry about the pacing, as being trapped in a dreary conversation can be mind-numbing, but that doesn't mean I'm not heavily invested in the story at this point. I need to know what happened in Basswood, and quite frankly until the game is released, my own Mind Palace will be swirling trying to piece it all together.