“Tell Me Why” is an interesting game that centers around twins as they return to their childhood home after ten years apart. As they’re trying to sell the house, they make a discovery that calls into question the circumstances surrounding their mother’s death.
The game is produced by DONTNOD Entertainment and will be released over the course of three chapters in the coming weeks. DONTNOD created my favorite game series, “Life is Strange”, so once I saw this game had the similar formula of a mystery and the main characters having supernatural powers, I knew I had to play it.
The other main selling point for me is that one of the twins, Tyler, is a transgender man, making this the first game by a major studio where a trans person is a playable character.
Most people in the LGBTQ+ community’s concern with representation is that we want representation where the plot doesn’t center around the character overcoming bigotry. “Tell Me Why’”seems to be walking a fine line between being accurate to trans people’s experiences while not making the story about discrimination. Since Tyler is returning to his hometown after 10 years and has since transitioned, he deals with some ignorant comments from a couple of people who knew him as a child, but that’s about as far as it goes, at least in Chapter One. I think the comments are realistic enough to the trans experience, but I would be uncomfortable if he encountered microaggressions in each chapter.
The game is set in rural Alaska in the fictional town of Delos Crossing. Alaska is home to many indigenous people and the game has characters from the Tlingit tribe. Two of the side characters are Tlingit and their culture and art help shape the setting as well. The town has many murals and sculptures that were commissioned by actual Tlingit artists to be used in the game. “Tell Me Why”’s website also has a blog post going into more detail about their use of Tlingit art and culture in the game. In the post they say they worked with the Huna Heritage Foundation to help with pronunciation of their language as well as inform them of cultural customs. So far, it seems the use of Tlingit culture is cultural appreciation.
Like in previous DONTNOD games, the twins have their own unique supernatural powers. They can talk to each other telepathically as well as play their childhood memories in front of them. The key is that each twin remembers events slightly differently and there are points where you have to choose which twin’s memory to go off of in their investigation about their mother.
There are also multiple endings you can get depending on your choices. I’m not sure how many endings there are since only one chapter out of three has been released, but it seems that there are at least two. You can either strengthen the twins’ bond or drive them further apart, depending on whose memories you choose to follow and some dialogue options.
Mechanics-wise, playing memories feels kind of clunky. You have to stand in a certain spot and “focus” on the memory. The visual cue on the borders of the screen that there’s a playable memory nearby isn’t quite enough to guide the player, and I found myself having to wander around the area to find the right spot.
Like in the “Life is Strange” series, there are multiple objects you can interact with in the environment and learn about the characters through. There are also collectibles hidden throughout the game in the form of wood-carvings created by the twins’ mother. I, of course, try to touch everything and exhaust every dialogue option, but the collectibles are pretty well-hidden.
All in all, I think the first chapter did everything it should have. It established the environment and the relationship between the characters while still being interesting enough not to feel like it was entirely exposition. I like that areas are much more open to explore than in previous games from this studio. I think the character animations were still a bit stiff, especially in comparison to the texture improvements. I played the PC version, but I heard the animations looked more fluid on the Xbox One X. There was also a twist at the end of the chapter that has me excited for the next installment and completely recontextualized some of the interactions between the twins.