All this week Kotaku UK is reporting live from the Gamescom show floor in Cologne, Germany, finding corners near plug sockets to bring you news about all the newest games as fast as our hands will type.
A recently reveal is developer Dontnod's Twin Mirror, a 'moral choice' game published by Bandai Namco, all about an unlikable arsehole. He's got a mind that balances on a fine line between showing mental health conditions, and plain supernatural superpowers.
That aside, this protagonist is frankly not a good person. You play a man who, after a rejected proposal and subsequent bad breakup, bailed on his home town, ghosting out of the lives of not only his ex, but everyone he liked back home. Forced to return home for the funeral of a close friend, he's basically having to deal with facing a lot of people he didn't ever say goodbye to.
Twin Mirror's Gamescom demo is a short scene in a hotel room, where the player is woken up by housekeeping mere minutes before he is due to be kicked out the room. He discovers a blood covered shirt in the sink, a smashed mobile phone, and has to piece together what happened the night before. How does he do this? With the help of two magical mental macguffins: his own mind palace, and an imaginary friend who might not be evil but sure as heck feels like it.
The imaginary person living in our mind is called The Double, and gives him advice of a sort. This hallucinatory entity may be magical, or the result of the protagonist's mental health condition, but manifests as a creepy and unsettling figure who gives sarcastic advice on moral choices (though you still make all the calls). In the demo he advised me not to check the bathroom and just flee the hotel, which would have resulted in my not seeing the bloody shirt and leaving it behind in the hotel as evidence.
The other mechanic at play is a Sherlock Holmes-style mind palace, where the protagonist sees a representation of events he can use to recreate events and work out how things occurred. It's a detective super power, basically, but in this universe is presented like the outcome of a mental health condition that affects intensity of detail observation and obsessive assessment.
With both features the Gamescom demo was too short to properly assess if Twin Mirror tries to parallel these mental health constructs with to real world conditions, or if they're simply macguffins for superhuman abilities.
The demo did showcase witty and well-written dialogue, but also a few inconveniences that grated. My big issue was being unable to collect all clues from the hotel room in a single pass. You have to hop back and forth from the mind palace interacting with things that are clearly not that important, just so what you really want to look at pops up as an option.
I had to make four trips back and forth to the mind palace before I was allowed to investigate the blood-covered shirt in the sink, and hypothesise that perhaps I removed and washed the shirt before getting into bed. The fact such an obvious clue was not selectable until I had investigated several nothing clues first kind of hurts the scene's tension (what would you look at first in that scenario?) and is something that I hope isn't a consistent issue in the main game.
Twin Mirror could be an interesting one, but I wonder whether the investigations will later allow me to just investigate things, rather than triggering an intended route of items, or if Dontnod will be able to make me care long term about a character who is a bit of an arsehole. The premise is undeniably intriguing however, and I'm curious to see how this one turns out.