DontNod Entertainment ‘Tell Me Why’ – Review In Progress
Childhood is complicated. It’s even more so when who you are isn’t who society deems you to be.
Tell Me Why is a narrative driven adventure game from Dontnod Entertainment, the minds behind emotionally charged games like Life Is Strange and The Adventures of Captain Spirit. Published by Xbox Game Studios, the game is currently exclusive to Xbox One and Windows PC, with Chapter 1 now available on Xbox Game Pass.
The game follows twins, Alyson and Tyler, who revisit their childhood home after years apart. In doing so, old memories resurface and the pair must decipher memories of their past, triggered by a special ‘bond’ that they share, to piece together the events that led to their separation.
True to Dontnod’s style of video games, the narrative of Tell Me Why progresses depending on the choices you, as the player, make. This, to me, makes for one heck of a value for money video game, given that you’re able to play through the game to completion and then explore the consequences of making different choices in your second or third play through.
The developers have done a fantastic job with creating a story that will tug at your heartstrings, despite having a narrative that’s influenced by your in-game choices. Having a game which deals with loss is hard enough. Add to that a character’s personal struggle with their identity and place in the world only makes it more challenging. Tell Me Why’s plot is convoluted and filled with the complexities of gender, identity, trauma, loss, mental health and so much more. For a video game, this wide array of plot points create a sense of connection between player and character, allowing you to feel a form of kinship or empathy for both Alyson and Tyler as you learn more about them.
There’s something special about the way Dontnod has handled Tyler’s identity of being a trans-gendered male and his transition during his youth. The way his character develops through the story is truly a sight to behold. Not to mention, having a game with a playable trans character is ground-breaking and paves the way for more games to be inclusive of people from all walks of life. It’s also incredibly heartwarming to learn that the developers of Tell Me Why took the time to consult mental health and gender identity professionals to capture the true essence of each character and to show sensitivity towards the topics being highlighted in the game. While this was an aspect that truly made the game a standout for me, it was the way in which the game managed to depict the bond of siblings that really had me in tears. There was such magic and wonder in the way in which the twins grew up. Their imagination played such an important part in their relationship with their mother and each other, which really got me because it’s exactly the kind of upbringing I had with my parents and siblings.
The visual features and use of poignant and emotional music should not be overlooked as well. The way in which these were used in the game added such a feeling of fairy tale mysticism. There were many moments where I felt myself transported into the world of the game, lost in the wonder of everything I was experiencing as a character. It was truly a marvelous feat, feeling as if I were one with the characters and the world in which they live.
There’s so much more to Tell Me Why that I want to say but I’ll save it for you to experience it yourselves.
Overall, Tell Me Why took me by incredible surprise. It was a game I never expected to find myself so deeply invested in, with characters that I became so involved with that I found myself feeling a variety of emotions I often don’t feel when playing video games. The bond between Alyson and Tyler and their relationships with others is an experience I treasure, especially with the game’s commitment to highlighting topics that aren’t typically explored in traditional video games.
As someone who longs to see more diversity and inclusivity in gaming, and has been incredibly taken with Xbox’s commitment to ‘Gaming For Everyone’, I found that I resonated with Tell Me Why’s core message. I’m beyond excited to see where this takes us in the future of games and the acceptance of differences in society as a whole. I can’t wait to play more Tell Me Why and you’re all more than welcome to join me as I continue Alyson and Tyler’s story on my Xbox streams over on Twitch and Facebook.