Tell Me Why Xbox One X Review

Tell Me Why is a checklist of everything a basic story needs to reach mediocrity

By Grayshadow, Posted 11 Sep 2020

Tell Me Why takes a more personal direction than previous Dontnod titles. Unlike the Life is Strange series which involved the lives of dozens, something hundreds, of people Tell Me Why has twin siblings simply looking for answers about their past. With a story that provides limited narrative diversity, simple branching paths, and an overall lukewarm ending. Tell Me Why is a checklist of everything a basic story needs to reach mediocrity.

Tell Me Why,NoobFeed,Dontnod Entertainment,

Tell Me Why stars twins Alyson and Tyler. Tyler was sent to juvenile hall after being responsible for the death of his mother while Alyson tries to remain connected to her twin while figuring out what she wants. When going to pick up her brother who has undergone gender surgery to become a male they instantly reconnect. Despite being in juvenile hall Tyler is as normal as can be, which is strange. He doesn't seem annoyed about lost time and instead tries to move with his life. This becomes a central plot point when it's revealed that Tyler killed his mother in self-defense when she saw he cut his hair to resemble his shifting identity and becomes the primary reason they resent their mother.

Due to the small town of Delos County where they live in everyone is aware of their situation. The twins decide to remember their mother as a tyrant despite the environment and characters conveying the opposite.  When entering their former home, which they're selling, for the first time in years you'll start to notice the holes in their memories. With photos and other items showcasing a loving family plastered everywhere but like their memories, the photos don't tell the whole story. Much of the background of Tyler and Alyson's childhood comes in the way of stories within the Book of Goblins, a collection of fantasy tales written by their mother that reflects her own life. Due to their extreme poverty, the mother and kids would fantasize about their life as a wondrous adventure, with them serving as Goblins performing foxy deeds and their mother as a glorified princess who fell from grace. This serves as the primary cipher to solve the many puzzles within the game link to Mary-Ann but that's not all, Tyler and Alyson have a special ability.

In classic Dontnod fashion, Tyler and Alyson's special power is never explained or elaborated on provides an advantage for Tyler and Alyson. Called "The Voice" Alyson and Tyler can relive memories from their past to analyze clues and speak to one another telepathically regardless of range. The issue with these abilities is that they're not recalling the past but what they remember and can speak unknowingly to one another. This leads to conflict as both Tyler and Alyson have different memories of what happened and deciding between separate memories.

Tell Me Why,NoobFeed,Dontnod Entertainment,

Much of Tell Me Why involves memories and the past, with Tyler and Alyson attempting to discover the secrets Mary-Ann kept hidden. There are some surprising revelations that keep the narrative alive at first. With a great cast of supporting characters aiding in the twin's journey to uncover these mysteries, like Alyson's best friend Michael who serves as a beacon kindness but the story loses its luster after episode 1. You never feel much of a connection for a large part of the characters because instead of developing a bond between the player you're just expected to accept these characters as having profound relationships. Since this narrative is 3 episodes long, each spanning about 2 hours, everything feels rushed with little room to develop strong connections between the player and character, instead just telling you why they're important.

The story tries to create a sense of tension and alarm from Tyler and Alyson's dilemmas but there's little concern about solving the problems right away. They break the law with little consequences and describe difficulties that could be solved with a variety of options. It's hard to talk about them without spoiling much of the story's most critical parts but many of the issues within the game could be solved with a PI detective or DNA test. When the final revelation is provided it's a lukewarm response with little buildup that attempts to paint one side as the antagonist despite the entire situation being a collection of lousy decisions and poor actions with little context. In comparison, Max from Life is Strange was the only one who could save Chloe because she was the only one with the ability to do so, and with Sean in Life is Strange 2, couldn't come forward about the police officer's death because no one would believe him. These problems didn't have any straight solutions which are why they were so captivating and amplified due to the growing relationship between Max and Chloe and the brotherly love between Sean and Daniel. Here Tyler and Alyson have many ways to accomplish what they're doing and regardless of your choices, their bond remains intact throughout the adventure with little variation despite your choices. I tried making their bond snap as a test by making every jagged answer possible but it didn't offer variation in dialogue or actions. There were small annoyances but nothing felt like it mattered, I could be cold and distant with Alyson or aggressive with Tyler and they would just forget it.

Like most narrative experiences you're given a choice of answers that shifts the story but here options have been reduced. You can no longer remain silent in most options, only in optionally appearing dialogue triggers during gameplay, and answers have been reduced. You still have critical choices separated into 2 categories but the narrative variety has been notably poor. This could be because the title features 3 episodes instead of 5 but after playing Life is Strange the narrative variety is drastically lower in comparison.

Tell Me Why,NoobFeed,Dontnod Entertainment,

Gameplay-wise Tell Me Why has a good selection of explorable areas. You'll travel through various locations from Delos Crossing and use "The Voice" to find out clues they've forgotten about their past. This is triggered by entering a specific state by hitting the trigger and locating a memory that is indicated through rumble. This creates visual images of what they remember. Outside of reliving memories, you'll complete busywork. Basically interact with everything until you trigger the next sequence while occasionally searching for hidden collectables, with the occasional puzzle to break things up. Some of these are just plain annoying such as when Alyson forgets loses her phone and you have to track it down. And yes, you'll have the required random objects to interact with that serve little purpose.

Many of the puzzles in Tell Me Why involve the Book of Goblins, tales written by Tyler and Alyson's mother to convey her life in a fantasy tale. The issue with this being that the siblings explain how their mother would read from the book constantly but they're frequently unaware of the stories despite being presented with puzzles directly lifted from the stories. This is to get the player through the tales to find the solutions to puzzles but it surprising that the kids are so unaware of them despite all of them being basic enough that if they were read constantly as a kid you would still remember them. This can become vexing in varying degrees, ranging from simply reading the right story to find the correct solution to infuriatingly searching for the correct tale. 1 puzzle's solution wasn't even part of the stories but written in the side of the book illustrations, which was more irritating to find than exciting to solve. You can power through these puzzles sometimes, providing the option to "break the lock" in most cases. There is 1 timed puzzle where you have to locate critical information about Mary-Ann but the time aspect is cosmetic to create false tension as regardless of your speed the same result happens.

Strangely Tell Me Why does not include multiple save files so if you want to change decisions to see new outcomes you'll have to erase your save file. If you overwrite the file while not in isolation mode, which doesn't track your choices, every chapter forward is closed off until you play through the chapter. Most importantly while you can skip seen cutscenes you cannot skip dialogue if you want to excel through dialogue in repeated playthroughs. Since load times can be long when starting a new chapter all of this just adds a new layer of annoyance.

Tell Me Why,NoobFeed,Dontnod Entertainment,

Visually Tell Me Why looks average and the mobility of the characters is okay. The character models look great and the voice-acting is very good. Each voice-actor sells their performance, providing believable reactions that complement the character's animations. Sometimes the dialogue can be lifeless with models just starring deeply into their ones and zeroes having bland conversations to create the illusion of friendship, these conversations are a drag and properly showcase them as we all have been in this situation.

I'm am glad that the game is more stable than previous games from Dontnod. Unlike Life is Strange 2 which was overwhelmed with technical problems here the game runs smoothly. I experienced no crashes or glitches during my 3 playthroughs.

Tell Me Why just doesn't provide the same emotionally charged experience that past Dontnod titles. The short tale of Alyson and Tyler searching for their mother's trove of secrets starts strong but ends with a whimper. Navigating the Book of Goblins to search for answers to Mary-Ann's puzzles as you try to make sense of broken memories to try and repair a fractured bond sounds promises but lacks engaging elements. As you progress you'll see lots of alternative solutions that could've easily provided the same results making the finale less impactful. Unlike Sean and Daniel who overcome massive hurdles to showcase their love for one another, constantly testing their bond through difficult trails none of that existed here because Tyler and Alyson would always forgive one another with ease. Tell Me Why is the perfect as a Lifetime film, consisting of basic drama and little soul.

Adam Siddiqui,
Managing Editor, NoobFeed
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General Information

Tell Me Why

55/100

Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Xbox Game Studios
Developer(s): DontNod Entertainment
Genres: Point and Click
Themes: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 2020-08-27

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