It appears as though the creative masterminds behind Life is Strange took the criticism about the second game's widely spaced out episodes to heart. This time around, Dontnod Entertainment is releasing all three chapters of its brand-new IP Tell Me Why across a three-week period (published by Xbox Game Studios) from August 27th to September 10th. And after experiencing all of them in one go, we're pleased to report there's been no evident corner-cutting despite the shift, and the game feels very much like a labour of love for the studio.
The premise of Tell Me Why centres around the characters of Tyler and Alyson - two siblings that are forced to part ways in their youth following a harrowing incident in which their mother points a gun at Tyler and is subsequently stabbed to death in self-defence. That's how the game kicks off its first 2-3 hour episode (they're all around that length), and the rest of the story follows the brother and sister as they reunite ten years later in order to sell the old family home, as well as discover the reasons behind what happened and the events leading up to it.
In order to unravel the mystery, you'll find yourself engaging in casual exploration, light detective work and some occasional puzzles, both as Tyler and Alyson. The key gameplay mechanic revolves around the two twins' ability to relive memories in front of their eyes in a sort of ghost-like fashion, which helps to piece together the story as it rolls on. It's not quite as cut-and-dry as it sounds as the two siblings don't always remember things in the same way, and so it's sometimes left up to you to choose what you personally believe.
As a result, this mechanic ultimately serves as the main way of affecting how the story plays out, and it alters how the two main characters interact with the townspeople around them. It's a creative and well-realised method of influencing the narrative, but it does require you to gloss over that the two characters never really bat an eyelid as to why they possess these supernatural powers - you kind of just have to go with it.
Where Tell Me Why particularly excels is in getting you to care about its protagonists. The two stars of the show don't possess overly outlandish personalities, but the game does an impressive job of delving into their backstories and tackling some challenging subjects in the process, such as how others react to Tyler being transgender, issues surrounding mental health and more. These aspects are effectively woven into the story while also enhancing its main plot point, and we ultimately found ourselves developing a close bond with Tyler and Alyson as a result.
The same can be applied to the rest of the game's small, but memorable cast of characters. Tell Me Why puts a lot of time and energy into fleshing out its ensemble, which again works to amplify its engaging narrative. The game gives you plenty of opportunities to get to know the townspeople, and none of them feel shoehorned in - everyone has a meaningful role to play, and they're given significant time in the spotlight.
The downside to this is that it generally lends to a slow-paced story. That's not necessarily a bad thing depending on what you're looking for, but if you're hoping for an action-packed rollercoaster ride, you won't find it here. You spend most of your time engaging in conversations that only occasionally get out of first gear, and there are times when some of the gameplay really begins to trudge along - sections where you're forced to fetch documents or items repeatedly for example, typically outstay their welcome.
Despite the slow pacing, you can really feel the love and attention that Dontnod has put into nearly every aspect of the game. There's always a lot to explore regardless of what environment you find yourself in, and some serious work has clearly gone into crafting even the most minor of items and objects, from small handwritten letters to the huge Book of Goblins - the twins' prized possession. And again, this helps to flesh out the world, adding to the immersion.
It all looks great, too. The fictional town of Delos Crossing is a picturesque setting for Tell Me Why, and its impressive views and eerie evenings lend plenty of gravitas to some of the game's more emotional moments. If you've played Life is Strange 2, you probably know what to expect in terms of character animations - they're a little wonky at times and the lip-syncing isn't perfect by a long stretch - but in all honesty, we instinctively found ourselves ignoring these issues for the most part, especially when the story was firing on all cylinders.
Tell Me Why is a thought-provoking narrative adventure that will stick long in the memory, and for the right reasons. It delivers an imaginative and emotional tale that isn't afraid to address mature topics along the way, and does a commendable job of making you care about its characters and remain invested in its conclusion. It won't suit everyone due to its slow pace and lack of action-packed gameplay, but it nevertheless tells a worthwhile story that deserves to be experienced, and we're grateful to have gone along for the ride.