Before I jump into this review, this has been a long time coming. It goes without saying that this was probably one of the most challenging pieces I’ve written so far especially as it isn’t in my normal style of writing. There’s been countless variations of this review and I have decided to break the review down into several parts to allow me to showcase each chapter on its own light instead of in one big review. With countless drafts of this over the last few months, I never felt ready to post it. I just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. However, after taking a step back, I got to a place where I was happy with my experience with Tell Me Why as well as this review.
Without further ado, here is my long overdue review of DONTNOD’s Tell Me Why Chapter One.
Note: This review contains potential spoilers relating to the storyline of the game.
When I think of games from DONTNOD Entertainment, I think of the likes of Life is Strange, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spark, and Vampyr to name a few. Back in November 2019, the developers announced a brand new narrative-driven game going by the name of Tell Me Why in partnership with Xbox Game Studios. After enjoying playing through Life is Strange 1, 2 and Before The Storm I was optimistic about playing Tell Me Why.
Loading up Tell Me Why for the first time, I felt a mixture of excitement and curiosity. I remember seeing the trailer a few months ago and found myself wanting to know more about Alyson and Tyler’s story. I knew instantly that this would be a game I would enjoy and that I needed to take a look at.
I was first greeted by a young child sitting in a dark and dreary room talking to another character who was off-screen. My mind started to think about how the events spoken about in this cut scene came about. Who is this child? Why are they in an interrogation room? More and more questions came about, but before I had a chance to find out those answers, I was then introduced to both Tyler (voice by August Aiden Black) and Alyson (voiced by Erica Lindbeck) through their respective introductions ten years later in twenty-fifteen.
I could sense the nerves that both characters were feeling as they were about to reunite for the first time in ten years. Tyler was about to take his first steps in leaving Fireweed for the first time, a place that he has felt safe and called home for many years. As for Alyson, not only is she reuniting with Tyler, but they are both returning to Delos Crossing where they are tasked with the challenge of selling their childhood home.
Travelling to Delos Crossing involved taking a lengthy ferry ride, it was the perfect time to get reacquainted and catch up with one another as well as taking in the beautiful surroundings. It felt like the right moment to get to know both of the characters on a more personal level and find out what they had experienced during their time apart. Approaching their childhood home for the first time in over ten years, you could feel that both Tyler and Alyson felt somewhat reminiscent about their time growing up there but at the same time a little sad and nervous about returning home.
Yet while Tyler and Alyson are in the process of reminiscing about their childhood, they mention a mysterious voice that they shared when they were younger. This coincides with the telepathic bonds they start to experience while at the house. These bonds help show memories from when they were growing up. Whether it’s between the siblings or with their late-mother Mary-Ann. The bonds that they share is what really brings the story of both past and present alive, it helps you have a much better understanding of what it was like for Tyler and Alyson growing up. I found that I was able to have a better understanding of the challenges and hardships that they faced. It was clear just how much Mary-Ann was actively trying to save the planet and make ends meet at the same time, she tried her very best to raise her children and look out for them by putting them first. This is also noticeable when Tyler and Alyson talk about The Book of Goblins. This was a mixture of stories written by their mother from when they were growing up and something that is referenced during their time at their house.
Learning more about the sibling’s childhood through these bonds they experienced, I felt a variety of emotions myself. I found myself feeling reminiscent from the earlier cutscenes, I could also feel the sadness, the pain, and the nervousness that they felt too.
While the plan for Delos Crossing is to ensure that they can get their childhood home ready to sell, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring their home and reliving the memories through the bonds. I also enjoyed meeting some many people who knew the Ronan family for a number of years both before and after the events that happened.
The latter part of chapter one focuses more on tying to piece together what may have happened in the days leading up to the events of that one fateful night. It was a pleasant experience, but I also found it interesting to see how other characters like Sam, Tessa, and Eddy had changed from Tyler and Alyson’s perception and memories of them from ten years ago to how they act now. It helped bring some memories alive more as well as answering many of my unanswered questions. The ending of chapter one however, left me with even more unanswered questions than I could ever imagine.
One thing that comes up throughout the game and I wanted to leave until later through this review is how the topic of Tyler’s character as a transgendered male is portrayed in the game. I personally feel that DONTNOD has portrayed his character brilliantly. The voice actor for Tyler, August Aiden Black is also a transgender male. It was wonderful to see how DONTNOD spent the time to research the topic but to also have someone who could personally relate to the character. There is not one moment where the topic is shied away from, in fact, Tyler’s character comes across as being very open to the fact he is transgender. It has been done in a way where it is respectful to the LGBT community and this is made apparent early on when loading up the game too.
There are several moments throughout chapter one that stand out when it comes to Tyler’s journey, such as Tyler becoming who he wants to be and not what society deems acceptable. The challenges and hardships he faced during his journey to figure out and understand who he truly is. This struck me hard, and I feel the audience can see how raw the emotions are.
As for my overall thoughts on Tell Me Why Chapter One, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through the game. While I did find a few moments in the game that felt a bit weaker than other parts of the chapter and a bit predictable, I didn’t find that it overshadowed my overall experience. I felt as though I could really connect with Tyler and Alyson emotionally throughout the first section of their journey. I’m curious to see how the story will play out especially after the latter part of the first chapter. I still have a number of unanswered questions that I know will be answered in due course in parts two and three.
Not only that, but I was glad to see an option for accessibility settings which include a dyslexia-friendly font, closed captioning, and a HUD setting to name a few. These settings are not only important for me but also important for many other players. DONTNOD made sure to make Tell Me Why as accessible as they could, and it shows in the variety of options they have provided.
What really stood out to me was how DONTNOD ensured that two main aspects of the game were thoroughly researched and represented respectfully. The teams worked alongside various organizations to ensure that the game accurately and respectfully represented several communities. Firstly DONTNOD worked with GLADD for Tyler’s character and the Huna Heritage Foundation to ensure the representation of the indigenous communities in rural Alaska. The fact DONTNOD has been very open about the research they undertook to ensure the game was created in the right way also drew me into playing Tell Me Why.
DONTNOD has a fantastic frequently asked questions section on the game’s official site that goes into great depth and detail about a number of aspects of the game. You can find that here.
So far, Tell Me Why has been a fascinating and wonderful game to play through, and I would highly recommend anyone who has been unsure about playing it to take the time to check it out. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story plays out in the next chapter.
Tell Me Why is out now and is available on Windows 10, Xbox One and Steam. Find out more about where to buy the game here.