STAFF REVIEW of Twin Mirror (Xbox One)

Sunday, December 27, 2020.
by Peggy Doyle

Twin Mirror Box art DONTNOD Entertainment is known for their ‘narrative adventure’ style games, primarily Life is Strange 1 and 2, Captain Spirit and most recently Tell Me Why. Twin Mirror takes a small diversion from their tried and true formula with a game that they define as ‘Story-driven Investigation’. It is definitely driven through its’ narrative and it has all the trademarks of what DONTNOD does best, even though it left me wanting more at the end of its quick 6-hour play time.

In Twin Mirror you play as investigative reporter Sam Higgs, returning to your hometown of Basswood, West Virginia. You’ve been gone for 2 years and you are not exactly popular with the locals. Your reason for leaving was understandable. You wrote a scathing article on the local mine, resulting in it being shut down which took a toll the community. You have returned home for your friend’s funeral and you end up having to untangle some of the town’s secrets along the way.

Throughout the entirety of the game, you also interact with a second character who exists entirely in Sam’s mind. Referred to as “Him” or “The Double”, he helps Sam navigate and analyze social situations, responses and interactions with others. This character stole the show for me. Sam is a protagonist who has great difficulty navigating conversation and emotions, whereas “The Double” offers advice on how best to approach different situations. While most interactions are solely in Sam’s mind and silent to the townsfolk, there are some points where Sam speaks out loud to “Him” causing other characters to comment on Sam’s increasingly erratic behaviour throughout the game.

In one of the opening scenes DONTNOD does what it does best; creating a strong foundation of interpersonal relationships. These range from a former boss, an ex-girlfriend, Sam’s god daughter, friends and various town locals. At the wake, which takes place in the local bar, you’ll discover that there are questions about your friend’s death, and you learn about the people who still live in the town.

Waking up the next morning in your hotel room, you find your shirt covered in blood. Determined to figure our what happened the night before, you head back to the local bar to try to piece together the events from the previous night. This is the first instance of putting Sam’s detective skills to work. Wandering around the space you find clues to put the pieces together. Although I was able to solve this quickly, I was unable to progress the story and couldn’t understand why. Eventually I realized I had missed one of the clues. This means that every clue needs to be examined prior to making your choices, regardless if the clue is relevant or not. In my case I was missing a hat, to which Sam’s comment was that it wasn’t important to the night’s events in question anyway.

Working through separate ‘chapters’ of the game, you try to learn more about the circumstances of your friend’s death, more about the town you left behind and ultimately more about yourself. Entering Sam’s ‘Mind Palace’, where time freezes and he can piece together those hard-to-find clues, is the game’s most intriguing feature. I would have liked to have seen this take more of a front seat in Twin Mirror as I enjoyed its puzzle/detective nature.

DONTNOD consistently knows how to use dialogue, voice acting and music to set the tone for story driven games. Conversations felt mostly natural, as the dynamic between Sam and “The Double” was captivating, and the soundtracks of various locations really felt like a small town. From the jukebox in the bar, gossip and music in the background of scenes, to the more dream inspired music of the Mind Palace, each part of the game felt clearly defined.

Unfortunately, Twin Mirror also felt rushed. Like it was originally meant to be longer or doled out in chapters over time like previous games by the developer. Just when the story felt like something big was about to happen, it was over. I felt like I didn’t get to know enough about things that caught my attention. Most relationships that you spend time learning about in the opening, do not really matter in the end. The mysteries and clues that you follow are very straightforward with no real twists or turns. You will not find any cliff hangers or large twists as in previous DONTNOD games. There are multiple endings to the game, and I played through twice, choosing different dialogue options and paths. You will get some variations to your game and relationships, but most of it was similar.

Twin Mirror on Xbox is a good game, and for fans of the genre like myself, it's a solid experience. For those who aren't as keen on the genre, nothing here is going to change your mind. With its compelling story, some fantastic characters, decent gameplay and moments of something that could have been brilliant, I enjoyed both my playthroughs. I was, however, left wanting more from the title and it feels like it sits in the shadow of its better DONTNOD adventure games.

**Twin Mirror was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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