DONTNOD Entertainment has made a name for itself on the PlayStation 4 generation thanks to the compelling narratives of two Life Is Strange titles. The stories of Max Caulfield and his girlfriend Chloe Price as well as the sibling duo of Sean and Daniel Diaz both helped really launch the developer into the public eye, but now it’s time for something slightly different. Twin Mirror is its latest PS4 project, and while it’s also about the story it’s trying to tell, the studio is going about it in a much more cinematic way. At the level of a first-party Sony exclusive, it’s not, but it’s certainly not too far off. All of this makes it DONTNOD Entertainment’s most cinematic and beautiful experience to date.
Everything in Twin Mirror seems deliberate. From intentional camera angles and focused, moody lighting to wide shots that set a certain tone, the game seems to guide the player down certain paths rather than handing them the keys to the palace. Twin Mirror still places a heavy emphasis on choices and selection of dialogue options, but this time around they seem to impact a narrative set in stone more than your own. It doesn’t look like you’re ever left out of the title’s biggest decisions based on previous picks. However, Twin Mirror comes across as an experience that really took the time to build a believable storyline, whichever route you take.
It’s probably also a good idea to have an idea of what kind of storyline you’re going to impact. You play as Sam, a man returning to his hometown of Basswood to attend the funeral of his late friend named Nick. He doesn’t think he will feel welcome after the events of his past, but respects just have to be paid. Sam plans to get in and out as quickly as possible, except it’s pretty much unavoidable, something is holding him back much longer than expected.
However, Sam is not alone in this endeavor. He is accompanied by an alter ego only visible to his naked eye. Designed to aid the protagonist in social situations, this doppelgänger provides alternate viewpoints during important decision-making scenes to ensure Sam considers every approach to choice at hand. It’s currently unknown if the alter ego will play a larger role in the story, only significantly appearing once during the 20-minute demo, but it’s a neat feature nonetheless. Gone are the times when you make a quick decision in an instant – you will always be required to consider judgment from all angles.
In other aspects though, Twin Mirror plays like a typical Life Is Strange title. You will be free to roam the environment, interact with objects as you go, and learn more about your surroundings. A brand new UI delves into the backstory once you discover optional interactions, and different text messages can be sent to other characters depending on your relationship with them and the mood at the time. DONTNOD has taken everything it has learned over the past two years and crafted a title that is more intuitive in every way. Again, this feels like a much more cinematic take on the studio’s ethos.
However, Twin Mirror introduces an entirely new feature and has a name you may have seen in other detective games of the generation. The Mind Palace is a place where Sam can go in his mind, and it triggers certain memories to be read. They play in real time in front of him, with the demo deciding to focus on why Sam is so afraid of returning to Basswood. Unfortunately, this sequence gives way to a bit of clumsy writing during a proposal scene, so hopefully that’s something that can be clarified before release. Overall, though, DONTNOD promises it has its own spin on the mechanic up its sleeve – something it plans to share more details about closer to launch.
The proof will be in the pudding, but Twin Mirror comes across as a more mature cinematic version of anything this French studio has done before. Taking a page from Sony’s book, the game feels like a much richer, compelling, and story-driven adventure that we can’t help but spark. If some of the writing gets another hit and the Mind Palace turns out to be a great feature, DONTNOD Entertainment will have yet another winner on their hands.
Twin Mirror will launch on PS4 at some point in 2020 and is a unique and cohesive title. It’s not episodic. Are you interested in discovering the game? Explore your own Mind Palace and extract some thoughts in the comments below.