Stevivor was recently treated to a (socially distanced and) hands-off preview of Twin Mirror, with developer DONTNOD presenting the first twenty minutes of its newest episodic title alongside insightful commentary.
For those unaware, Twin Mirror follows an investigative journalist named Sam as he begrudingly returns to hometown of Bassword to attend the funeral of his best friend, Nick Waldron. As Sam pulls up to a scenic spot that overlooks the small town, DONTNOD provides a litle ominous foreshadowing. “He’s pretty sure he isn’t welcome,” the commentary declares.
From the small, seemingly northwestern town (it’s actually a northeastern one) to half the game’s name, Twin Mirror gives me a Twin Peaks vibe almost immediately. That’s not really a surprise, as the combined efforts of David Lynch and Mark Frost have featured in DONTNOD’s past works. The difference between Twin Mirror and the likes of Life is Strange however is that this new piece looks far most photo-realistic than anything that’s come before it. That said, the title still had a telltale DONTNOD feel (pun not intended; I mean in the same way that Telltale games always had a particular visual style no matter the subject).
On that lookout point, Sam interacts with a couple of objects — points of interest labelled with a black bar, as if redacted, completed by simple white text that labels the item — getting the lay of the land. “Some things you don’t need to know… until you do,” DONTNOD says of this UI tweak, teasing the investigations that will seemingly come. Sam continues on to look down through a nearby telescope and that causes him to enter his Mind Palace, a visual interpretation of his thoughts and memories.
Sam’s Mind Palace has changed quite a bit since we were first shown it. Gone is its rough, rocky exterior, replaced instead with an environment that wouldn’t look out of place as Superman’s Fortress of Solitude (comics or movies, your choice). Crystaline shapes form and reform, providing Sam a path to walk from memory to memory, again reshaping to take the form of friends and family as he relives (and reshapes) them. It’s through the Mind Palace that we learn Sam has left the small town because his once girlfriend Anna rebuked a marriage proposal.
“Why can’t things be as clear and peaceful as my own mind?” Sam laments, adding that nothing stays hidden — or rather that everything comes out in the open — in his own personal sanctuary. On that topic, it’s here that I noticed some really, really odd dialogue that just didn’t work. “You look as if I’d run over your Grandma or something,” Sam says as Anna rips his heart out and throws his proposal in his face. Shortly afterward, Sam declares it’s “time to adult.” No. No one should say that.
Coming out of the Mind Palace and back into reality, the player learns that time doesn’t move at the same speed within; what was mere minutes in it is seemingly hours in the real world. Back at the overlook, Sam realises he’s missed the very funeral he came back to Basswood to attend. Oops.
He continues on to meet with his goddaughter Joan — the daugther of Nick, the man who’s just died — and it’s here that Sam’s slight disconnect from the real world is truly apparent. Like fellow Mind Palace user Sherlock Holmes, something’s a bit off with Sam (though I’m not remotely qualified enough to attempt to chalk it up as Autism or Asperger Syndrome or anything else the famous detective has been, fictionally, diagnosed with). In conversation with Joan, we meet The Double, a wholly imaginary alter ego used by Sam to deal with social situations he doesn’t feel like he can handle on his own. In particular, DONTNOD marks The Double’s apperance as times that represent “big decisions” that Sam will face (and was the inspiration for this preview’s title if you didn’t get the Twin Peaks reference).
As the presentation ended, I was left with more questions than answers. Joan asks Sam to investigate Nick’s death; what’s likely seen as an accident (or suicide?) is foul play to his daughter. Is that the ultimate mystery to be solved, or does it have to do with Anna, the lover who has jilted Sam? According to past DONTNOD releases, neither of those things is true — at least, not directly.
“Twin Mirror is a psychological thriller wrapped around an investigation where your memories, choices, and relationships will determine Sam’s complicated fate,” DONTNOD initially said of the game. “As he comes to terms with heartbreak, homecoming, and the perpetual struggle of adulthood, Sam will need your help exploring a dark and emotional adventure where the line between truth and deception is blurred.”
“In Twin Mirror, players take on the role of Sam, an investigative journalist returning home to bury an old friend,” another press release stated. “But, as Sam wakes up in his motel room with a blood-stained shirt and no memory of the night before…he must embark on a thrilling investigation and series of impactful choices to discover the truth.”
I’m unclear if Twin Mirror has altered its overall narrative just like it has redesigned the Mind Palace when all is said and done, but one thing it certainly clear: it’s picqued my interest.
Update, 4 November: With a month to go before the release of Twin Mirror, DONTNOD and Bandai Namco provided hands-on access to the beginning of the game. What follows is a 30-minute sequence that largely follows our original preview, though extends into Nick’s wake. It’s a great look into Sam’s psyche and how he interacts with the residents of Basswood. It also features a lot of PAC-MAN.
Twin Mirror heads to Windows PC via Epic Games Store, Xbox One and PS4 on 1 December.