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Twin Mirror hands-on preview: You can't go home again

Dontnod Entertainment, the developer behind Life is Strange, is diving into a murder mystery with Twin Mirror. Shacknews sees double with this first hands-on.

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Dontnod Entertainment has been recognized for putting together some of the best story-based games of the past decade. The French developer is mainly known for the Life is Strange series, but has recently branched out to create whole new stories outside of that. The upcoming Twin Mirror is one of those new stories, with Dontnod teaming up with publisher Bandai Namco to introduce players to an all-new main character.

Twin Mirror takes Dontnod more into uncharted territory. It's more of a murder mystery than the developer's previous efforts, taking players into a town filled with unknowns. It also represents Dontnod exploring a different sort of new ground. Twin Mirror takes a step away from episodic storytelling and is a full-length game, the team's first since 2018's Vampyr. And while Bandai Namco is lending their assistance, Twin Mirror is also Dontnod's first self-published game. There are a lot of firsts here and Shacknews recently had a chance to try Twin Mirror out for ourselves.

Twin Mirror introduces players to Sam Higgs, who opens the story by exploring the bluffs outside his old home of Basswood. It's Sam's first time returning to the sleepy West Virginia town and it's not under happy circumstances. His old friend, Nick, has died and he's in town to attend his wake.

Players quickly learn a lot about Sam. He's an investigative journalist, beaten down by his old profession. It turns out he's not a welcome presence in Basswood, thanks to an old story involving the mine shafts. Sam's story about a wrongful death raised safety concerns that led to the mine's closure, leading to layoffs for the majority of the town's workers. However, that's just part of the story. Nick's death is what brought Sam to Basswood, but Nick's daughter believes there's foul play involved. That leads into the game's full plot, as Sam begins to look into the circumstances surrounding his friend's untimely death.

Twin Mirror utilizes a number of familiar Dontnod story elements and gameplay mechanics. Players can explore different areas, examine objects in closer detail, and have detailed conversations with multiple dialogue options. Player choices determine Sam's relationships with Basswood's various denizens. However, there are some new ideas at work here, too.

There's a new mechanic called the Mind Palace. This is where Sam escapes into his own mind and can examine his surroundings at his own pace away from outside influences. Twin Mirror's early minutes establish the Mind Palace as a device for flashbacks, taking players through Sam's memories and establishing his previous relationships with some of Basswood's townsfolk. As the game goes on, the Mind Palace also allows Sam to explore scenes for more forensic purposes, freezing time and letting Sam examine an area for clues or simulate multiple scenarios. It's a really cool idea that supplements the murder mystery and investigative atmosphere.

Only Sam can see and talk to this character: The Double

Twin Mirror also has another intriguing idea going for it. While some of Dontnod's previous games (including this past summer's Tell Me Why) have had dual main characters who banter off one another, Twin Mirror gives that idea an interesting twist. Sam Higgs is the game's lone protagonist, but he'll often converse with... himself. At various points during the story, Sam will see an embodiment of his past self, a more charismatic version of himself that only he can see. The Double will often talk to him, help him sort out his feelings and emotions, and determine what to say or do next. But the Double isn't always a friendly sort. He's also a representation of Sam's past demons in some ways, so as much as he's there to help Sam, he'll sometimes leave him in a worse place than when he started.

Having grown accustomed to Dontnod's episodic efforts, it's really interesting to see where Twin Mirror is headed. Outside of being a sucker for investigative mysteries, I love how much the team is adding to the normal formula. The idea of the Mind Palace is intriguing and, so far, Sam's interactions with himself are some of the game's biggest highlights. Add in an interesting narrative that tasks players with exploring Sam's past and this could be one of Dontnod's most memorable adventures to date. Twin Mirror will release on PC via the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on December 1.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 3, 2020 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Twin Mirror hands-on preview: You can't go home again

    • reply
      November 3, 2020 9:34 AM

      I have to admit I didn't finish tell me why. :(

      I beat the first 2 chapters and then just...never did the 3rd one. I just didn't care about if the twins figured what was up with their mom. It wasn't really gripping to me.

    • reply
      November 3, 2020 9:43 AM

      After LiS S2 and Tell Me Why, DontNod content is strictly bargain bin purchases

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        November 3, 2020 9:44 AM

        Also never bought Vampur, yuck.

        LiS S1 was a fluke

        • reply
          November 3, 2020 12:47 PM

          Remember Me was very good, too.

          I still haven’t finished LiS2. It wasn’t bad in any way. Just felt a bit dragged out or padded and that they were trying too hard to stick to the exact same vibe as the first one.

          I’m still interested in Twin Mirror, though. Looks like it could be an interesting idea.

        • reply
          November 3, 2020 12:59 PM

          This is harsh!

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