Twin Mirror Might Be the Christopher Nolan Game You’ve Been Looking For
Taking some inspiration from Twin Peaks and the films of Christopher Nolan, Twin Mirror looks like an intriguing mystery worth discovering.
It’s not long that we have to wait until the next release from the storytelling-focused developer Dontnod Entertainment and their latest game, the psychological thriller Twin Mirror. Thanks to the developer, I got some hands-on time with the new game and got to experience the first few hours of the story. For what I thought the title might suggest–a game that feels like a lovely comparison to David Lynch’s iconic TV series Twin Peaks–in actuality Twin Mirror shares more DNA with the films of Christopher Nolan.
In previous Dontnod games, the focus is usually spent on personal relationships with characters that you develop along the way while uncovering deeper, scarier secrets in a given community. Twin Mirror is no different from that formula. Instead of teenage girls from Acadia Bay in Life is Strange or fractured siblings from Delos Crossing in Tell Me Why, in Twin Mirror we get Sam Higgs, an investigative journalist formerly of Basswood, returning home after two years away. He finds himself coming back to the town after writing an article that took away one of the major functions of the town, the mines, and to pay his respects to friend and colleague Nick, who passed away due to unusual circumstances. It’s not long until Sam starts to investigate and comes to the conclusion of foul play in Nick’s death, and discovers what role he might play after waking up the next morning with his shirt covered in blood.
It’s not a Dontnod game if the main character didn’t have a supernatural ability of some sort, and while Twin Mirror has that, it’s not necessarily a “power” in the typical sense. Instead, it’s more of a visual representation of what goes through the mind of Sam, who by profession is an investigative reporter. Sam’s thoughts are represented through the “Mind Palace,” this “mirror world” motif that allows him to recall past memories that enriches his relationships between the other characters, but also helps him recreate crime scenes. It’s less like Batman using Detective Mode in the Arkham series and more like my man Dominic Toretto in Fast & Furious. While it’s a tried-and-true game mechanic that has seen many uses, it does fit well within this story Dontnod is trying to tell.
Along with Sam’s Mind Palace, he also seems to have a mental construct of a more sophisticated version of himself that he has conversations with throughout the game, acting as a moral compass when it comes to decision making. Sam’s double demonstrates his internal strife after the fallout of his article. Sam looks tired and beaten down, with a 5 o’clock shadow that is days late from a shave, and Sam’s mind doppelganger looks like a suave Patrick Bateman-type with gloves. He’s sophisticated, clean, and clever, and he knows how to get under Sam’s skin. Sam’s doppelganger very much might be the standout for the game, and made me curious if he can be trusted even if he is Sam himself.
So far, I am intrigued by where the story of Twin Mirror is going to take me when the full release comes out. I’m sucker when it comes to small-town stories with defined and interesting characters, and this looks no different. With Twin Peaks being my favorite example of a murder mystery small town with fascinating denizens, it’s clear that Twin Mirror’s cast wont be as wacky as Twin Peaks despite a few honestly hilarious interactions. But either way, I’m looking forward to learning more about the town of Basswood as the game continues and getting to experience the full story. With the murder mystery aspect of Twin Mirror, it feels more in line with Christopher Nolan’s early films such as Following, Memento, Insomnia, with some clear inspiration from Inception. As a recent watcher of some of his work, I was very much pleased as I continued to see how the story took similar unexpected twists and turns. From what I’ve played of Twin Mirror so far, I’m looking forward to how this aspect of the story shakes out for those who love suspenseful narratives in their video games.
While I like what I’m seeing in Twin Mirror so far, there are some minor gripes from what I played that I hope gets polished up in the final release. A key function of this game is seemingly the illusion of choice, which appeals to me as someone who has played many choose-your-own-adventure games over the years. I’ve loved this style of storytelling in games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn, thanks to their implementation of choice and branching paths. As of now, Twin Mirror is not as expansive as I hoped when it came time to making those same sort of “big choice” moments. To test this theory, I made sure to play through the preview a few times to see if there were major divergences in how the story unfolds, but there was nothing massively different from moment to moment. In the preview notes the developers did say that while these are the opening hours of the game and that my choices are seemingly non-consequential, the later parts of the game will provide more dynamic changes, so I look forward to how that shakes out.
My main other concern in Twin Mirror is the way that the investigation aspect is handled in regards to finding and gathering clues. Like a lot of other games that use a similar mechanic, you simply have to walk around an area and look at viewable objects. My issue with this function is that some of the clue objects are not highlightable until you find certain clues first, which could lead to annoyances for the player having to circle back a lot to search for something in an area they already thought they completed. It’s these instances in Twin Mirror that I wish there might be more consideration for different ways that players can map out solutions, since the recreations of crime scenes seem like they have only one true conclusion.
I’m very much looking forward to Twin Mirror when it comes out, hoping the choices in the game grip me as much as they did in Dontnod’s previous games and that they knock this out of the park as their first self-published title. Sam Higgs’ journey is certainly troubled, and with the help of his doppelganger and the denizens of the town of Basswood, he may be able to figure the mystery ahead or be damned by his choices. For the most part, it seems like Twin Mirror will be all about who Sam can and can’t trust, including himself and his own mind.
Twin Mirror launches on PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on December 1, 2020. For more on the game, you can also check out our full DualShockers Discussion for Twin Mirror with me and Nick Blain (Video Editor).