Like Chapter 2, Tell Me Why‘s conclusion is mostly a slog. Thankfully it rebounds in such a way that makes the game Dontnod’s most game-like experience yet.
What Is It?
Chapter 3 is the finale of the three-part series featuring Alyson and Tyler Ronan. The chapter begins with you in control of Alyson and because of an argument she had with Tyler, you actually end up using her throughout most of the chapter.
For more background on what the game is about, you can refer to this review of the first chapter of the game.
Why Should I Care?
With these types of games, I always have a tendency to do my best to finish them, especially when I’m two chapters in. With Tell Me Why being three chapters, you almost have no choice. You might as well, right?
After digging up all sorts of new information surrounding their mother’s death in the last chapter, Alyson takes it upon herself to talk to Sam, someone who seemed to be a love interest to their late mother, while Tyler stops to fish with Michael. The fishing is a cool moment where you do more than point and click at things, but at the end of the day, it’s still essentially a quicktime event that requires hardly any effort.
Eventually, the siblings make up and they find themselves at place in their home they never knew existed, and it is absolutely decked from head-to-toe with art from the Book of Goblins. It ends up being a set of puzzles that are once again solved using information you gather from what’s essentially reading comprehension, and while it honestly isn’t the funnest part of the gameplay loop, seeing the metaphors and making the connections with the stories in the Book of Goblins and what’s happened in their mother’s life truly is make it a unique method of world-building.
You’re even treated to a whole bunch of stands to leave the various collectibles (also from the Book of Goblins on), and that results in a pretty cool moment. Finding these collections are optional, but doing this is essential if you really want to 100% the game and clear the achievements.
As clever as all that is, when the twins really learn the truths that their mother was hiding, the big twist towards the end hardly makes any sense. It feels like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and had to pick an antagonist from the seven or so non-playable characters you met in the story and just chose the one that seemed to be the most convenient means to an end. It reminds of Heavy Rain, another a game I had a lot of fun with, but that plot twist was absolutely bonkers, and now that I have that in my mind, I kind of want to go through the game’s credits to make sure David Cage’s name isn’t on here.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Tell Me Why is a pretty cool experience. It had an outstanding introduction, but after that it fell flat. The lack of any weight to any of the choices there are to be made in the game make you feel like you have no control, and whether or not that’s the intention, it just makes the game feel sort of shallow.
That shallowness is a real shame, too, because it could’ve been so much more. This game had a lot of firsts. It was the first game to feature a transgender in a main role. On a lesser note, but huge for diversity, as far as I know, Tell Me Why was the first game to feature a Filipina character with genuine Filipina and Catholic values (not counting Talim in SoulCalibur). All this stuff felt real, but it was also all secondary to the real story–the truth about what happened to their mother.
I don’t know if Dontnod plans on turning Tell Me Why into a series that’ll continue to focus on Alyson and Tyler (hopefully more Tyler), but there’s a lot of depth in both the twins, and I’d like to further explore their relationships and get to know them in more chapters because despite all the work Dontnod did to make good with the transgender, Native American, and Catholic communities to be sure the everyone seemed believable, none of that work seemed particularly useful as the game’s plot developed.
The approach was definitely bold, but the execution as a whole fell flat. Chapter 3 gets a 3, but the game as a whole gets 2.5 out of 5 stars.