Tell Me Why is the latest title from developer DONTNOD, the studio behind the Life is Strange series, as well as Vampyr . The episodic format of the former always felt like the perfect fit for a service like Xbox Game Pass and, coincidentally, this title is being published by Xbox Games Studios.
Back when Tell Me Why was revealed late last year, the comparisons that it received to Life is Strange was inevitable. DONTNOD’s newest game is a great experience throughout its three chapters, but it still has some of the same issues as the studio’s most well known franchise.
The story follows two twins, Tyler and Alyson Ronan, in the town of Delos Crossing, Alaska. Throughout the game, they work together to uncover the story behind their mysterious mother and her motivations.
Without going into spoiler territory, the plot has several major decisions based on how both of the twins remember certain events from their childhood.
It’s challenging not mentioning Life is Strange when talking about Tell Me Why because the two games feel incredibly similar to one another. The game even employs a similar fairy tale analogy with the twins as Life is Strange 2 did with the Diaz siblings.
The similarities don’t stop there. The twins have a special power as they are telepathically linked and can even share their separate recollections. Tyler and Alyson have different interpretations on different events. It’s up to the player to decide which one is the “correct” one, thus driving the plot.
The pacing of Tell Me Why ’s story is done much better here as well. There’s no huge time gap between the three episodes, making it easier to follow the events. Additionally, having the central plot take place in one small town helps it stay focused.
However, much like the Life is Strange series, the minute by minute gameplay’s pacing still suffers from slowness. Objects take forever to pick up, and there seems to be no option to skip through dialogue that you’ve already heard.
A mechanic could have been implemented to skip any line of dialogue with a press of a button, similar to how games like Mass Effect have done it in the past.
In outdoor areas, you can generally run at a brisk pace compared to the snail-crawling walking speed inside buildings. It would have definitely been nice to be able to move at the outdoor speed everywhere else in the game.
This problem seems to persist throughout the games in the Life is Strange universe, in addition to Tell Me Why . As someone who reads faster than the dialogue being spoken and wants to search for collectibles in the area quicker, more ways to speed up the minute by minute gameplay would have been appreciated.
The presentation is DONTNOD’s best yet. Having the setting in Alaska and a cold environment helps Tell Me Why stand out a bit. Everything from the tranquil lakes and the snow capped mountains provide a calmer aesthetic, especially since the overall tone of the game isn’t as flashy or bombastic as DONTNOD’s previous titles.
This is also reflected in the fact that the use of supernatural abilities isn’t as fantastical and over the top compared to Life is Strange either, with Tell Me Why taking a much more subtle approach with telepathy between the twins.The voice acting is a step up too, with both Alyson and Tyler’s voice actors providing stellar and believable performances.
To touch on the subject of Tyler Ronan for a moment, his identity as a transmasculine person is definitely important to the story and his relationships with the other characters in the game.
What’s impressive here is that Tell Me Why doesn’t overly rely on that single aspect of Tyler to carry the entire plot forward. The subject is brought up occasionally, but it fits nicely into the overall narrative and also doesn’t define Tyler entirely. Tyler is shown to have other interests too that help develop him into a multidimensional character.
Tell Me Why – Verdict: 4/5
Those who enjoyed Life is Strange will find quite a lot to love in Tell Me Why . It’s strange that this game isn’t a third entry into the series when it very well does feel like one. After several releases with very similar gameplay structure, you’d think there’d be some more improvements in regards to the slowness of picking of objects and cycling through dialogue.
However, as you’d come to expect, the characters are great and the overall story is intriguing enough to keep going. Tell Me Why is another interesting and captivating episodic adventure, albeit a familiar one, from one of the studios that does it the best.
Well written characters and enticing story
Voice acting and presentation are DONTNOD’s best thus far
The subjects of inclusiveness and diversity are handled well
While not inherently a bad thing, the gameplay and story structure are too similar to that of Life is Strange – tell me why (hehe) it isn’t considered part of the franchise?
It carries the same downsides from Life is Strange as a result, including the sluggish speed of picking up objects and the inability to skip bits of dialogue