After ten years apart, twins Tyler and Alyson reunite to sell their childhood home. They soon realize their past is not what they remember.
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Reviewed on: PC
Also available for: Xbox One
Cast: August Aiden Black, Erica Lindbeck, Grace Kaufman, Gianna Ernst, Emily O’Brien, Martin Sensmeiser, Forrest Goodluck, Neil Kaplan, Melody Butiu, Dave B. Mitchell
Game Director: Florent Guillaume
Narrative Director: Stephane Beauverger
Lead Writer: Morgan Lockhart
This is a wrap-up review of Tell Me Why which was released in three chapters. You can find reviews for each solo chapter below.
Tell Me Why is developer Dontnods’ most compact narrative adventure. With all chapters released on a shorter schedule, and with only three, it was a change of pace to Life is Strange 2’s almost year-long spread of five chapters. It’s doesn’t quite hit the highs of the Life is Strange 2 with much less room for tangential character moments and stories, but the Ronan twins are a pair of characters I quickly grew very fond of.
Taking place over a couple of days, Tell Me Why is focused on exploring the past of the Ronan twins childhoods. When they were ten their mother chased a young Tyler with a shotgun in the middle of the night forcing him to protect himself and his sister. Their mother died that night. Tyler was sent to a residential centre for trouble teenagers and the twins were separated for ten years.
It’s as the game dives deeper into not only that night but Mary-Anne, their mother, that you begin to form a bigger picture of what caused the events of that night, and what needs to be said and done, for the twins to truly move on with their lives. What they think they need to do is to sell their childhood home, which is where the game begins, but they soon realise you can’t just sell-off your troubles.
Mary-Anne is a character literally built with mystery boxes around her. As the twins return to their childhood home they discover several coded locks or doors that the twins must decypher to continue. Mary-Anne has hidden the answers they seek all around them, but in a rather over-the-top way. In fact, as the mystery boxes continued to reveal themselves across the three chapters I grew less attached to discovering all the secrets they kept solely because I couldn’t buy into how over the top they grew. It’s all supposed to be in-line with who Mary-Anne is as a person, but ultimately I felt it was retrofitting her character to fit the gameplay choices that were being built.
With these lock-boxes and more comes a greater amount of puzzle-elements that weren’t included in the vast majority of Life is Strange 2. There are possibly more puzzles here than in all of the first Life is Strange, and they are well designed. I just couldn’t buy into the narrative reasons for their existence.
Tyler and Alyson Ronan are both deep and likeable character and although I grew disinterested in the major mystery in play, I enjoyed every second with them. To explain why they’re so intriguing and well-written characters would involve diving into spoiler territory, but I do encourage you to come back and read my spoiler reviews for chapter 2 and chapter 3 once you’ve played them.
As a transgender man, Tyler’s starring role in a game being published by Xbox Game Studios is noteworthy. But I would understand any criticism from the transgender community for the lack of representation by a trans-character not tackling trauma in video games.
Alyson gets a bigger focus in the last chapter of the game I found the writing and treatment of her anxiety to be the best Dontnod has treated mental health in any of their games. Although, there are interesting discussions to be had about Mary-Anne’s representation and use of her mental health to drive the mystery box elements of her character.