Tell Me Why is the newest adventure game created by DONTNOD, the studio that also brought us games like Vampyr and Life is Strange. With their latest series, DONTNOD has decided to tell us a beautiful story about twins with a dark past and a strange telepathic power that allows them to communicate with each other through their thoughts. Tell Me Why combines a fantastic cast of characters with a gorgeous Alaskan setting, while also managing to tell an engaging story with emotional depth.
This game also represents a significant milestone in the industry. Tell Me Why is the first game from a major studio to present a playable transgender character. The story of Tell Me Why unravels across three episodes, all released within a week of each other. The final chapter came out on September 10th, and you can play the whole series on either Xbox One, Steam, Microsoft Windows, or Game Pass.
If you are looking for a review that focuses only on the first chapter, check out our Episode 1 review.
STORY – FEELS LIKE HOME
Tell Me Why intrigues the player with its narrative shortly after booting it up. During a stormy night, we see a young child who is being interrogated by a police officer. After a bit of questioning, the audience quickly learns that the child has just endured a tragedy. We then jump a decade into the future. Immediately after the time jump, we meet Tyler and Alyson Ronan, twins that were separated shortly after the events of the prologue. The two siblings have had no contact with each other since that tragic day and are eager to finally see each other again.
As the two are reunited, we find out that Tyler is a transgender male and transitioned while being away at a center for at-risk youth. Alyson, meanwhile, has been stuck in their hometown, trying to move on from the event that still haunts her. The game truly begins once Alyson brings Tyler back to their home in Delos Crossing, Alaska. Once there, the pair begin working together to uncover the truth behind their family history and the town’s deepest secrets.
DONTNOD Studios has always allowed the player to make choices that will impact the course of the story, and Tell Me Why uses this mechanic again but in a new and exciting way. Early into the game, you realize that Tyler and Alyson are more than just twins. They also have a telepathic power that they refer to as their “Voice.” This power allows them to communicate with each other with their thoughts. The “Voice” also will enable them to see memories from their childhood as they start to put their past together. Occasionally the twins will look back at a memory but will have different interpretations about what transpired. It is then up to the player to chose which version of the memory you want to be canon: Tyler’s version or Alyson’s version. The choices you make while playing the game will have a significant impact on how the story ends for you.
GAMEPLAY – THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH
Tell Me Why is an adventure game with a few new twists. Most of the time, you will be wandering around Delos Crossing, talking to the locals either about topics relevant to the plot or to gossip and discuss the town mascot, Justin Beaver. There are a lot of small details and even hidden collectibles all over Delos Crossing as well. It is entirely up to the player how much of the hidden lore they want to uncover.
When you are not exploring Delos Crossing or mingling with the locals, Tyler and Alyson will focus on learning more about themselves and their past. They must find and question the people they used to know in order to get the truth. It is during these story-driven moments that old memories confront the pair, and the player must choose which version of events they want to believe. As you make more and more critical decisions during the game, you will either create a closer or more distant bond between the twins. You won’t know how a decision will affect their relationship until after you have made a choice, but there is a way to track their relationship on the main menu of the game.
Tyler and Alyson may sometimes be interrupted by a puzzle someone has laid out to test them. Unfortunately, to solve most of these puzzles, you will have to refer to a book full of short stories for children. While the puzzles are fun and creative, the actual reading from the storybook slows down the momentum of the game and can take some time to do. Though told through a creative lens, reading pages of text on a screen is rarely fun. Fortunately, DONTNOD was kind enough to make most of these puzzles non-mandatory, though, and you can skip over them to progress the story if you so choose. Tell Me Why also features some neat mini-games that help add levity to a game that can often feel very heavy.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO – BEAUTIFUL AND IMMERSIVE
Tell Me Why is DONTNOD Studios’ best-looking game, and it uses its environment to help showcase that. Using Alaska as a backdrop, the player is quickly swept away by the mesmerizing landscapes. The mountains on the horizon look real enough to climb, and the way everything reflects off the water is truly impressive. Besides making the exterior location of the game look good, DONTNOD has even improved the overall appearance of interior settings. Like how Naughty Dog designs their games, almost every building you explore in Tell Me Why is full of little details, creating a unique atmosphere for each place you visit. Every place you go to feels like it has been lived in by a real person and has a story to tell if you explore enough of it. For anyone who has lived in a small town or somewhere isolated from the world, DONTNOD makes Delos Crossing feel like home.
The game uses original music from composer Ryan Lott, who expertly blends the sounds of despair and optimism in his score. Lott creates a sound that expands on the already engaging atmosphere of Delos Crossing and can set the mood for upcoming events. It also uses licensed music across its three chapters to significant effect. Dum Dum Girls, Lower Dens, and Tiny Deaths are just a few of the bands with their music featured in the game. Most of the licensed music you hear in Tell Me Why will play over a montage at the beginning or end of a chapter, usually to set the mood for what’s ahead or to give the player closure for something that has just happened.
The voice acting in Tell Me Why is one of the game’s biggest strengths. You will meet many people in Delos Crossing, and all of them have a unique sound and personality. DONTNOD Studios also made the right choice to ensure that they portrayed Tyler as authentically as possible by casting August Aiden Black, a trans male voice actor, for the role. The team allowed August to change certain lines of dialogue in the script to be more appropriate for Tyler’s situation.
Tell Me Why was reviewed for PC.