Life is Strange hit like a bomb in 2015. The teen drama about Max Caulfield and her best friend Chloe has been showered with awards. Even then, Dontnod Entertainment was addressing some "taboo subjects" such as suicide among minors. Another topic that was seldom presented to date was the implied love affair between two women, Max and Chloe. In Life is Strange, the topic of the LGBTQ community (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender and queer) is shown only very subtly. In Dontnod's latest title, the sexuality and gender of the protagonist are clearly more in the foreground.
Tell Me Why is about the 21-year-old twins Alyson and Tyler,
Source: PC Games
who meet again after 10 years of separation in their home village in Alaska. Tyler killed his mother in self-defense as a child, after which he had to go to juvenile prison. Now the siblings meet again to sell their childhood home. In doing so, they uncover secrets from the past.
Tyler has to deal with the villagers' comments at the same time as he is a trans man. So a man born in a female body. Now he not only feels like a man, but also has a masculine appearance. But many do not know how to deal with it.
Everything the same as before, just different
Tell Me Why also appears in episode format, typical of the games by Dontnod. With almost 3 hours per episode, the game is played through relatively quickly. The first two episodes have already appeared, the third and thus final episode will be released on September 10th. The developers have responded to the fans' request to publish the episodes at shorter intervals.
Tell Me Why also playfully adheres to the models of the Life is Strange franchis or the Telltale Games games. We look at the surroundings in small areas and read letters, posters and so on lying around. Every now and then puzzles come up, but they are hardly a challenge. If you want to do without it, you can also simply step through the locked doors or boxes and thus skip the riddles. Where Max was able to turn back time in Life is Strange, Alyson and Tyler are able to mentally communicate. In addition, they can visualize their memories through certain stimuli such as smells or sounds. In the game, these scraps of memory are represented by shimmering figures that can only be seen by the siblings. The problem with this is that sometimes people have different memories of the same event. It's no different with Tell Me Why. So we often have to decide whether to believe Alyson's or Tyler's memory.
Source: PC Games
Speaking of decisions: the game remains true to its genre. Again and again we are faced with dialogue decisions that should change the course of history. Unfortunately, the game is no different from Life is Strange: The variety of choices is often only fooled, and most entertainment options only change one or two sentences. The further course of the story, however, is hardly influenced. It is only at the end of the third episode that the options become really important and allow different endings.
Approachable, believable, but boring at first
The first episode of Tell Me Why can be compared to the first act of a film. The characters are introduced, the world shown and the story told. It is better to use the structure of a series for an episode format. There is also an arc of tension within an episode that has to be built up first. But every end of an episode should have a climax to keep it going. The climax of the first episode in Tell Me Why comes too late, however, and that as a simple flashback. Before that, the game is too busy introducing the player to Tyler's character and gender. So not only has the actual story been pushed too much into the background at the beginning, but also makes our other protagonist, Alyson, appear characterless. Only in the second and especially in the third episode does it show its depth. At the same time, it must be said that Tyler is making good use of the time he is given.
Since it can be assumed that some players have never dealt with the topic of transgender people, it is important to make this role credible, but also approachable. To achieve this, Dontnod worked with many people from the LGBTQ community, as well as the organization GLAAD worked together. Tyler's spokesman, August Black, also sees himself as a trans man and helped shape the dialogues. Dontnod has definitely done his homework here, which you can clearly see in the finished game. The villagers' reactions to Tyler's new look are also very well written.
For example, the old seafarer Sam says at the first meeting that he didn't know that a woman can now be made to look so much like a man. At first, of course, Tyler does not feel that he is being taken seriously, as he sees himself as a real man. Sam didn't mean it at all, he just never learned how to address transgender people appropriately. Tell Me Why is simply not a nice game for a cozy evening, but also helps the players how to "change" properly and shows an insight into the life of a trans man.
Source: PC Games
Still, the first episode has its lengths. Part two of Tell Me Why is really picking up speed again and you get a continuously more exciting story. The third episode starts a bit slow again, but increases very quickly to the climax. Even if the final twist was a bit predictable at the end, the ending is a satisfactory ending. The previously mentioned puzzles also have a considerable historical background. As children, Alyson, Tyler and their mother wrote many fairy tales and summarized them in a book. The puzzles in the game are based on these stories, which makes most of the tales need to be read. If you are interested, you can always just browse over 80 pages of the fairy tale book.
Source: PC Games
From a distance hui, from close up ugh
Graphically, Tell Me Why is definitely not an optical pearl like The Last of Us Part II, but it is by no means ugly. In total recordings, i.e. viewed from a distance, the game is beautiful. This is not least due to the fascinating nature of Alaska. When the snow-white mountains can be seen on the horizon and the river in front of it is soon frozen over, Tell Me Why often offers moments worthy of screenshots.
Source: PC Games
However, this magic subsides with detailed shots. Even with the highest graphic settings, the shades rarely have a smooth transition, hands are often angular and the facial animation looks very stiff and wooden. Overall, the leap from Life is Strange to Tell Me Why wasn't that big. The occasional stuttering when reloading surroundings also pulls you out of immersion every now and then. In addition, the game did not save automatically once in the test, which meant that we had to play half an episode again. Because manual saving is unfortunately not possible.
Tell Me Why is musically excellent. Whether a single piano can be heard in the quiet and melancholy moments or the pressure increases due to the music getting faster and louder when difficult decisions are made, every situation is accompanied by a suitable piece. The sounds are seldom in the foreground, they are pure support for the visual. The voice actors also do a good job. They convey a lot of emotions and always appear in keeping with their character. After the unsuccessful Remember me From 2013 Tell Me Why is the first game by Dontnod, which is also dubbed in other languages. Due to the corona pandemic, other language editions (including German) will only be submitted on a previously unknown date. At the moment the game is only playable in English and optionally with German subtitles.
All three episodes of Tell Me Why are for PC in the Microsoft Store and available on Xbox One for 29.99 euros and included in Xbox Game Pass. The individual parts are currently not available for purchase separately.
Gripping story with a lot of social criticism
Before I started on Tell Me Why, I was unsure: Is Dontnod playing a game with a transgender person just because they want to attract attention? Is it because more and more people are internalizing diversity in their minds at the moment and are hoping for easy profit from it? Will and can they present this important topic with respect at all? In the meantime I have come to the conclusion that they have succeeded in implementing it. Tyler's character is not reduced to his gender alone, rather it is part of his character development. This is particularly evident in the first episode. Unfortunately, the overall plot weakens for this, which falls short overall. In the last two parts of Tell Me Why, however, the focus is shifted and tells a well-written, tragic family story. In terms of play, however, the title is just as un innovative as its genre counterparts and is more of a means to an end. In the end, however, I was tied up in front of the screen and was happy to accompany Tyler and Alyson in their search for the truth.
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