Title: Twin Mirror
Release Date: December 3, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer Dontnod is known for their advancements in the adventure narrative genre. However, their success has also been backed by larger budgets and unique gameplay elements. When it comes to Twin Mirror, we find a lack of both. The new mature direction is commendable, but they fail to create any form of tension or excitement in this underwhelming experience.
Twin Mirror introduces us to Sam Higgs, an ex-reporter returning home after two years when a friend passed away in a car accident. The reasons for him leaving revolves around a story he wrote that got the town mine shut down and his girlfriend at the time turning down his marriage proposal. He’s not well-liked in the town, so he means to make the visit brief, but after a night of drinking, he wakes up to a bloody shirt and not a clue how it happened.
Sam now has to piece together what happened the night before, along with some other mysteries that loom over the town. However, the tension stops there as it feels like we are on a linear path to the truth of the bloody shirt and other crimes caused around town. Sadly, the narrative is weak and fails to use its large cast of characters properly as it relies on generic twists that don’t cast doubt on anyone except for who’s pulling the strings. Even the build-up to the reveal is cut short with just a simple exposition dump without any real pay off.
The biggest issue with the narrative is how many ways it could have gone right. Sam is seemingly cursed by an invisible presence that gives him pointers on how to talk to people. It’s a way for him to cope, but it can also affect his relationships negatively. Further, Sam can travel into his mind to piece together events as they happen using clues while accessing memories. While Sam’s relationship with his invisible friend is one of the game’s strongest elements, the mind palace elements could have been used more because the feature is just as strong.
I wouldn’t say I liked how the narrative required you to solve every case the same way. You have to search for clues where you can’t progress unless you find every single one, and then you have to play out the events, but you can’t progress unless you choose the correct path. I would have liked more room for mistakes, but these moments play out the same way no matter how you approach the story.
Still, there are significant choices that you can make in the story based on whether or not you side with Sam’s invisible friend or not. These choices with your instincts are significant and caused me to put thought into the outcome. Still, they’re few and far between, with dialogue choices not having the weight that I’d expect from these types of games. This may have been because there’s no on-screen indicator pointing out how your choices affected the branching paths, so your shooting in the dark every time.
The story is also haphazard in nature as you travel from one area to the next, meeting townspeople that have no real impact on you. The pacing is just off in that regard as you retrace your night so early on, followed by you teaming up with another character named Anna for what feels like 3/4 of the rest of this short adventure. It’s not bad, but the narrative becomes only about their past, which is pretty set in stone considering what they’ve been through. Sadly, the rest of the characters are surface level, and the relationship with this spunky little girl named Bug just never stuck with me.
The story’s best moments incorporate Sam’s Mind Palace, which has Sam entering a meditative state as he clears his mind and focuses on the issue at hand. This is where Sam sees the most growth within himself, and we see why exactly he needs his invisible friend. Still, I found it hard to connect with Sam, regardless of how many choices I made during the dialogue. This was probably because he doesn’t even know who he is as he struggles to interact with those around him, and so the choices feel more like what I think the person he’s talking to wants to hear rather than the ones I believe he wants to say.
Graphically, Twin Mirror is a mess. It has moments of looking great, but then NPCs’ bodies disappear, each transition is met with rendering issues, load times are insane, and environments aren’t that interesting. If that wasn’t enough, the gameplay is almost just as difficult to navigate as I struggled to interact with objects requiring Sam’s position to be exact to trigger an action. On the bright side, I enjoyed the voice over, but the game lacked the soundtracks that I typically love from Dontnod.
Twin Mirror’s foundation of returning home to a tragedy after leaving because of a tragedy doesn’t work. The characters are as forgettable as the story, and the mystery is handed to you on a silver platter as you make your way through the narrative. Nothing makes you want to finish the game, which is sad because I did enjoy the more mature tone of the characters that deviated from what we are used to seeing from the developer.
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