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First and foremost, it might be worth reading our Twin Mirror preview if you haven't already - it's based on the first couple of hours of the game rather than the entire title, but it'll be less spoiler-y than this review and contains many of the same highlights and lowlights. But if you're just here for a verdict, then let's get started.
Twin Mirror tells the story of Sam, a social outcast who has been brought back to his hometown because of tragic news. His old best friend, Nick, is dead. Sam ignored Nick's calls, like he did with everyone from his old life, and moved onto a solitary existence after reporting on and getting the local mine and lifeblood of Basswood closed. The game has a bundle of characters reflecting the small-town mentality, but at the story's centre, you have Sam, Him, Joan (aka Bug), and Anna - and the Mind Palace, if you want to include that.
I could gush all day about how pretty Twin Mirror is. I often see people posting images of games they've played and I often don't get why people loved the visuals they're talking about. Twin Mirror - although rooted in realism - is halfway between DONTNOD's Life is Strange and a hyperrealistic title like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in terms of visuals. It reminds me of the way we remember sights and images. A slightly blurred-out version of reality yet still true to life in intention. I took screenshots all over the place, delighted with every detail.
How about the story? Well, that's sort of a mix of the thoroughly enjoyable, and the tad shallow. DONTNOD does small town better than any studio I know. Everyone is in each other's pockets, and the character you're playing has a relationship with everyone you speak to, for better or for worse.
As you begin to delve into the world of Twin Mirror there are two questions that come into play: what happened to Nick, and what is up with Sam? One of those is answered, while the other is still left on the table as you walk away from the game. Perhaps that's deliberate - perhaps DONTNOD doesn't want to answer your 'is it supernatural or not' question. On the other hand, it feels a little bit like a loose end.
As someone who really enjoys a good murder mystery, Twin Mirror is a satisfying game at the very least. There are some interesting twists and turns, and moments of genuine wonder as the plot blooms. In my preview, I mentioned that it felt a little like stepping into the Netflix TV show Mindhunter; but now I think it feels a little more like early Supernatural, Hannibal, and even a little like the BBC's Sherlock. It's like returning to a good murder mystery book, and although there are issues with some areas of the game, you forgive them because you just want to know more about the world the developers have presented you.
So how about the weak points in the game? It's probably worth mentioning that the build of the game I've been playing, ahead of release, was a little patchy when it comes to performance - some animation glitches here and there, and an occasional white screen visual problem. Jarring, certainly, but by no means game-breaking.
Warning: some minor story spoilers follow, below.
A bigger problem I have to mention is that the script can sometimes be a little awkward. Every so often someone says something that just feels a bit off. It's more prominent in the first half of the game, but as the mystery of what's really happening in this town is revealed, there are moments of "Oh, I am the bad guy," which feel really shallow.
For a game that gets really deep into the inner workings of mental stability, social anxiety, and small-town society, the words that the people say often feel like a drop in the ocean of lexical complexity. The one poet in town feels a little like a buffoon, while you, as Sam, also feel like a buffoon. The cleverest we get is Anna and Joan, the town's resident smart-ass kid as well as your late best friend's daughter - the moments where they are on screen, or Him is, are more compelling than Sam by himself.
Let's get into (small) spoiler territory, shall we? Sam's big thing is that he is mentally complex, and by that I mean, he's unusual in the way he thinks and reacts to the world. Outwardly socially awkward, Sam has a secret double he talks to throughout the game - known as 'Him'. Sam also has a place he calls the Mind Palace which, despite having a slightly cringe name, is a useful and stunningly beautiful space inside his own mind which helps Sam solve problems.
Warning: OK, real spoilers coming up below. Buckle up or turn away now.
However, we aren't ever really given an explanation of these two worlds. Sam constructed Him a long time ago, but the Mind Palace is just there. You get hints that something within Sam's mind palace is broken and wrong - like, perhaps another alter ego is stored within it - but that plot point doesn't feel like it ever pays off. He just fixes himself with a few deep breaths.
Later in the game, you are given a sudden ultimatum - Him, or the Mind Palace. I wasn't even aware these two things were at odds with each other. After going through the game with two sets of skills at my disposal and just getting comfortable with them, the game asks you to give one up. Maybe if the game was longer with more time for these two ideas to intertwine it would feel like it made sense; but it just feels a little annoying more than anything.
I chose Him and the game ended for me in a pretty satisfying way; but during dialogue, there is the hint that there was more information on the mystery you missed because of this choice. A second playthrough of the ending (you can choose just to repeat small sections) will probably give you more context. But then there is still the nagging question of why is Sam like this. You never find out, and when a game is about mystery and uncovering facts, this niggles away at the back of my mind.
So, in conclusion, Twin Mirror is a lot, and I mean a lot, of fun. If you're looking for a visually stimulating and, at select points, an intellectually invigorating game with the makings of a modern Agatha Christie novel, this is absolutely for you. It's for point-and-click lovers, mystery admirers, and those who just want an good gaming story that comes in at under 10 hours. Is it perfect? Not at all, but it's another quality release from DONTNOD which bodes well for future projects.
Pros: Amazing visuals, interesting plot and characters
Cons: Some awkward scripting, several questions and mysteries left unexplained (but then, aren't they always?)
For Fans Of: Life Is Strange, Grim Fandango, Agatha Christie novels
Twin Mirror is out now for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4. PC version tested using code provided by the publisher. Find a full guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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