When Life is Strange's final episode came out in 2015, Dontnod Entertainment cemented themselves as the kind of studio you turn to when you want a good story. Since then, they've made and announced several more story-heavy games. One such game is Twin Mirror, which is one that I've been eagerly awaiting since its initial announcement. We got a chance to view a gameplay demo of the first 20 minutes of Twin Mirror. In these opening moments, I've decided that I am into this game even more than before.
Twin Mirror's intro saw the main character, Sam Higgs, returning home after his best friend, Nick, died in a car crash. The cutscene served as a great opening, showing off the small town that Sam is from and really helped build the feel Dontnod was aiming for. Between strange dirt roads and sad country music, it's a pretty simple foundation that sets the tone well.
Sam is a former investigative journalist, and he absolutely hates his hometown. Right from the start, he investigates a sign, which presents flavor text noting how "generous" a big company was for "creating" a park for the residents. Basswood Virginia, like many small towns based around a single business that failed, is on its way out. Most of the town was based around a mine that's no longer in business, and everything appears to be dying.
Investigating every little thing also has some advantages. Sam's memory is quite good, and these little bits of information you can store away can teach him a lot of things that can be used later. One example shown was a sign next to a hiking path. It had gun laws and wildlife information that, as the narrator put it, were "somethings you simply don't need to know, until you do." It remains to be seen how he can pull this information up later, but maybe you need to fight off a bear.
Upon reaching an overlook we get introduced to an important gameplay element: the Mind Palace. You can reconstruct important events here, using logical deduction to try and figure out what happened. The palace is represented by floating crystal islands, each with little bits of memories on them. One floats by of a mysterious person playing on a Pac-Man arcade cabinet (notably, it was actually Pac-Man, which is a nice touch that makes the world feel more real.) Another saw Sam's first meeting with a co-worker, and eventual ex-girlfriend named Anna, who does human interest stories.
Dontnod notes that, while the Mind Palace isn't really a unique concept and has been done in many other forms of media, they made sure to put their own spin on the concept. It certainly is visually unique, with the crystal worlds flying by and slowly dissolving as Sam remembers more moments in his life. Even if the short section we saw was little more than walking forward and inspecting things, it's certainly a visually exciting way to present these tidbits from Sam's past. Dontnod also said that the Mind Palace is one of the features that has been revamped since they last showed off Twin Mirror and that they were keeping some parts of it close to the chest.
The Mind Palace eventually ends by showing Sam's attempt to propose to Anna, something that ends, well... poorly. It's an obviously unhappy memory and gives one, of likely many, reasons that Sam ultimately chose to flee his hometown. While reflecting on this memory, Sam also makes a major mistake of missing the whole reason he came back: Nick's funeral.
Here we get a chance to see the game's pause menu. That may seem like a weird thing to show off, but we get to see that Sam keeps notes on all the people he meets in here. If you ever wanted to see how he felt about someone or get a chance to look over all the mementos that you find about them, this would be the place to do so. One example given is Sam finding an "S + A" inside of a heart that he and Anna carved into a tree.
We got one more scene at the overlook, with Sam running into an odd figure. This is The Double, who serves as Sam's alter-ego. While he may only exist inside Sam's head, he certainly has a lot of opinions that he's willing to share. Loudly even. The Double is everything Sam is not: confident, loud, a people person, and more than happy to ditch that stupid journalism nonsense in favor of going to a bar. The only hope is that he continues to only exist inside Sam's head, since if he ever leaves that may be a problem.
At this point, the scene transitions over to Nick's wake, with Sam showing up quite late. Outside he's met by Nick's 13-year-old daughter, and Sam's goddaughter, Joan. Joan has a theory that Nick's death may not quite be accidental and asks Sam to look into it. It's here where we're presented with our first major game narrative changing choice: help Joan or don't. To make things a little more dramatic, time freezes.
Yet just because time froze doesn't mean nothing is happening. Internally, Sam is having a debate with The Double about what to do. Both characters will argue their respective points. In this instance, Sam's journalistic mind kicks in and he wants to help his goddaughter both because it feels like the right thing to do and because maybe the pieces don't quite add up. On the other hand, The Double feels that they're trying to give reason to a random accident and that by making this promise you're just setting Joan up to be let down and hurt further.
For the demo Dontnod chose not to help Joan, causing the girl to get upset and leave the wake by herself. They promised that these major decisions would have lasting impacts on the game, and this was one of the big ones. After that Sam finally made his approach to the wake itself, and the demo ended just as he entered the bar.
While I may not have gotten to see much puzzle-solving or some of the more supernatural elements the trailer has been hinting at, I came away from Twin Mirror's preview all sorts of excited. This looks exactly like the kind of narrative game I've been looking for. A supernatural-lite story about a situation that may or may not be murder in a town that's going through a fatal patch of capitalism. I'm not sure what more I could want, but I'm ready for the full release.
Twin Mirror is set to launch later this year on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.