Up until I saw the first trailer for State of Mind I had never heard the song Reality Cuts Me Like a Knife by Faada Freddy. Much like Gears of War added Mad World to my iPod, and Dead Island 2 added The Bomb, the song was an instant hit with me. However, I also came to be super interested in the game behind the song. After previewing it at E3, I knew this was a game I'd want to see more of. Now State of Mind is in my hands, I can find out if this is the kind of state you actually want your mind in.
There's no time wasted in setting up the sad state of State of Mind's world. A mother keeps her kid attached to a robot while she browses her phone. Police robots drag homeless off the street and beat them. Only the richest people look even vaguely happy. At the same time, there's a virtual reality world, where everyone appears to be happy and have everything they want. This dual city set up lets us see two possible futures, switching between a utopia and a dystopia to bring out an interesting angle.
State of Mind follows two characters: Richard Nolan and Adam Newman. Both characters live shockingly similar lives. Both have a wife and son and live in apartments that look the same. They're both accomplished journalists and they've both been in car accidents that leave them with memory issues. The only real difference is that Richard lives in the dystopia Berlin while Adam resides in the digital utopia that is City 5. Of course, life can't be easy, as both of them begin having problems. Richard's wife and son go missing, while Adam begins to see weird glitches.
Naturally, the two characters meet up and begin to try and work out their problems together. The real plot doesn't kick in for several hours, but State of Mind really gets going once it does. The central mystery of how connected Richard and Adam are proves interesting. I found myself constantly guessing at how each story beat would play into the grand conspiracy at hand. As the plot advanced I was surprised by some of the twists and impressed by others. Overall, I came away really enjoying it.
For as good as State of Mind's story is, it occasionally gets caught in plot strings that go nowhere. An early mystery that sees Richard figuring out the identity of a mysterious man in his apartment falls away with no resolution or relevance. The same happens to a couple characters. They just sort of drop off the face of the Earth with little warning, with both main characters having "best friends" that just cease to be. It's all a bit jarring and it's a shame that the plot couldn't follow up on everything.
While State of Mind may remind a casual observer of a Telltale game, there's no branching paths or dialogue options that change the outcome. All the dialogue choices in the game are just for more world-building, and this is where State of Mind shines the brightest. The many little objects and lines that seemingly have huge stories behind them really flesh the world out. What's Dronegate? It's mentioned several times here, and I'd love to find out. I'm hoping for more games in this universe because it really captivated me.
When you're not talking, usually you're just walking to the next point to talk. It feels weird to bring this up because you obviously have to move around somehow. However, State of Mind's movement always feels clunky. I think it's because my characters are prone to wide turns that I don't always understand. Often I would overshoot my destination, and find myself running up against walls desperately trying to turn in place.
When you're not walking around you're solving simple puzzles. There are three types of puzzles that show up the most often. One is the usual "rotate an analog stick until you find the sweet spot" that you've probably seen in many other games. The second requires you to pick out three pieces of relevant information from a pile. Sometimes it can get a little tricky, but it's a fun way to show off the character's journalistic abilities. The final usual puzzle puts you in the center of a 360-degree photograph and has you reassemble it. It's really as simple as hitting a button on each segment of the picture until they all match, but there's a bit of joy in watching it slowly come together.
Besides those, there are different breaks of various quality. One segment saw Adam in freefall, having you move him closer to a music box so he can grab it. Another saw you taking control of turrets and shooting drones out of the air, swapping between three sections of a factory to protect a robot uprising. Late in the game, an interesting puzzle had me switching between two characters to figure out how to rotate a train so I could cross an opening.
Of course, not all of these segments work out. One saw me flying a drone around a party to identify a specific person. It was simply boring and felt like a waste of time instead of anything fun. There are also some puzzles that are fewer puzzles and more just time wasters, like one that just required me to walk a long distance so I could place a transmitter upstairs.
State of Mind also falls into one classic adventure game trap that I wish it didn't: the pixel hunt. It tries its hardest to avoid it, even providing a smart system that highlights all intractable objects in the direction you're looking. More than once, a pole or wall obscures the objects you need. You just wander around until you chance upon the right angle to make it show up. It's annoying, and easily the weakest part of the game. It's hard to shake the feeling that these sections exist just to artificially extend the average playtime. Thankfully it doesn't really happen often enough to really make the game hurt. I'd say State of Mind took me a solid twelve hours to finish and only two of those felt like a waste.
At least I didn't mind spending some extra time taking in the view. State of Mind is a pretty game thanks to its standout art style. Each character looks like they're created out of shards, giving this weird and fantastic low-poly look. The environment is much more realistic and detailed. This provides a neat contrast, one that made me take notice of a lot of the game. I'd say the only time I didn't care for it was when there was a closeup on a character's face, as their mouth movements often felt off.
State of Mind Review | Final Thoughts
Since I saw the game at E3, I knew I wanted to check out the dual setting of State of Mind quite a bit. Now that I finished the game, it's a journey I'm glad I took. While there are a few issues, and plot strings I'd love to tug on a little harder, I still came away very pleased. This is a look at several futures that could come to pass. Let's just hope we end up with the utopia instead of the dystopia.
Our State of Mind review was conducted on Xbox One using a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC via Steam and GOG, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
- Captivating Story
- Fantastic Fleshed Out Setting
- Fun Puzzles
- Great Artstyle
- Few Plot Strings Go Nowhere
- Clunky Movement
- Some Puzzles Boring
- Occasional Pixel Hunt