Tell Me Why – PC Game Review – LGBT Visual Novel Puzzle Solving Adventure Game
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I would best describe “Tell Me Why” as an LGBT+ visual novel puzzle solving adventure game. The gameplay is similar to Tell Tale’s Walking Dead, or D4 Dark Dreams Don’t Die, or Quantic Dreams’ Detroit Become Human, and of course DONTNOD’s other adventure games such as Life is Strange. All of which I love. So It comes as no surprise that I would then also love Tell Me Why.
So let me tell you why (pun intended lol).
Although it is a game about transgendered youth and homosexuality, and I am a straight born this way female, I have always accepted gay rights and had no issues with that being the focus of the game. Most my family has always been against gays but even from a young age I would try to argue that they should be allowed to love who they love.
And from a young age I’ve felt just as I’ve been born into this world as a straight female, they too have been born into this world as a gay male/female or feel gender disassociation with their own bodies.
I really strongly feel that it is not a moral thing. It doesn’t corrupt our children or our society because it is not a conscious choice. It is not something someone chooses. It’s not like someone just wakes up one day and says hey I want to be gay today I saw it on TV or in a game and it looks fun. LOL.
There’s too many cases of very small children, talking like toddlers here, that want to dress as the other gender or insist they are not their biological gender, etc.
It’s not a sexual thing since it’s way before they have any concept of sexual desire or sexuality. It’s just they feel different. So I’m pretty confident that it’s not some dark terrible horrible thing. That’s how I’ve always felt. Even back in the 80s/90s when being gay was largely not acceptable for society.
I’m straight but I feel it’s fine for other people if they wanna be gay, let them be gay, what’s it hurt?
As for the religious angle, I always say God doesn’t make any mistakes. God created man – and woman – and he looked at his creation and he said “It is good.” – And besides if God doesn’t approve of gays, well that’s between them and god – only god can judge them – we have no right to judge other humans when we too have sins of our own. We all sin. The two main commandments are to love god and love thy neighbor. There is no commandment that says thou shall not be gay. lol.
Ok sorry by the way I am ignorant and really don’t know all the politically correct polite terms for LGBT+ stuff. So Excuse me. I don’t want to offend anyone here. Really really not my intention. Much love.
I honestly have no idea if Tyler would be called a transgendered man or a transgendered female or if it’s even politically incorrect to call him trans at all, maybe he should just be called he/him/his or referred to as a man. So that’s what I’ll try to do is refer to him in the masculine.
Alright, now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the actual game.
I already compared it to other similar games, but in case you’re completely new to any of these games, the gameplay is like this: it’s like an interactive movie. You watch it and sometimes you can take control of walking around but most of the time not. You watch and watch and watch, and occasionally there will be some prompts for interaction. Such as replying from multiple choice responses.
Now I want to point out – most reviews are positive – but I saw one negative review (there are other negative reviews but this jumped out at me) and they said they only ever had 2 choices and it was pretty clear which one was the correct answer – I disagree. I saw numerous times 3 or 4 or more choices especially later in the game.
I spent 73 hours with the game and completed all 3 chapters.
The person making the negative review said he spent 8 hours.
Only less than 50% of users on steam have even completed chapter 2.
Less than like 40% have found the princesses treasure – I won’t say what it is because it’s a pretty shocking spoiler.
Less than 50% keep the twins connection – on the other hand – less than 3% complete the game with the twins severing their connection.
Of course multiple play throughs are needed to get both.
Less than 40% find out who their father is
Less than 40% get the confession from Tessa
Less than 40% make peace with Mary-Ann at her grave, etc.
So no, it’s not clearly black or white, as it’s about 50-50 what people have chosen to do on their play throughs – if they’ve even played long enough to see all the choices available.
I’m the type of player who likes to run around exploring every nook and cranny and going everywhere else except or where the story is prompting me to go. I’m an explorer. That’s my play style. It’s not even that I want achievements. I just want to unlock more back story and find hidden easter egg type things tucked away in the game.
I am the type that will read and click everything, sometimes even multiple times.
And even I still missed some achievements on my first play through – most are because of the branching fork nature of the game, you can’t see or do everything in one playthrough. I got 20 out of 30 and got a pretty nice ending though so I’m happy with that and I don’t really think I’ll play again for awhile (years – if ever) because I have so many other things I want to play first.
So that’s gameplay. Let’s move on to story.
So the story of the game is about two twins who grow up in Alaska. Their mother is a free spirit Tinglit (I may not have spelled that correctly, some type of Native American tribe). She wants to raise her children in the ways of her ancestors. And it is pretty clear she loves her children, but also pretty clear that she’s weird and “out there”.
The family is shunned by a lot of people in town. But because it’s a small town they also have a few close friends growing up that love and support them.
Until one day, their mother crosses a line that should not be crossed and then even old friends turn their backs.
With no where and no one left to turn to, their mother has a mental break down. It’s up to you to decide as the story unfolds what really happens, either suicide or murder. I won’t say who or what. I won’t even say which one I chose. But that’s the heart of the game really.
In addition to the suicide/murder mystery – it’s also as heavily mentioned above about a transgendered character. Both twins are biologically female, but one twin feels like a male trapped in a woman’s body. A lot of the game’s story deals with themes of LGBT+ equality and rights and even the personal fears and questions and doubts and experiences that an LGBT youth experiences and trying to fit in, and other psychological issues, both while young, and then later in life during, and after their transition.
And not to be forgotten in the story, is the bond between siblings, especially in this case twins. They can talk to each other using their inner voice which also becomes part of the gameplay. And they have shared but differing memories of the events that happened. Their experiences or memories of those experiences sometimes differ and you must choose which one feels most true to you. All to piece together what really happened the night of the murder or suicide in which all of the characters are involved.
Overall I liked the story and the characters. They seemed real. They had their own struggles and issues and concerns and hopes and dreams.
I didn’t like the story as much as Life Is Strange (by the same developers).
This story didn’t move me emotionally.
Maybe it’s because it’s harder to relate for me personally to LGBT+ because I am not one myself.
Maybe the story is very emotional to an LGBT person playing the game. But I can only talk about my own experiences.
Detroit Become Human (similar gameplay different developer) moved my soul and stirred my imagination and touched me on a much deeper level than Tell Me Why. I’d also say the same for Life is Strange – it too moved me more deeply.
I don’t know what the disconnect was for me in Tell Me Why, it just felt flatter to me. Maybe like I said I found it harder to connect to the characters or really truly understand their issues because I have nothing in my own life to compare it to.
That didn’t make the story bad per say. It just made it less relateable. But still with over 70 hours I put into a game, in which other people spent 8 hours with before writing off – I’ll say this – I was drawn into Tell Me Why’s story the entire time from start to end. It had me hooked. I couldn’t put this game down. It’s the only game I’ve played in over a month – aside from a few mobile games when away from my computer.
I wanted to learn more about the twins and the fate of their family in their small Alaskan town. That kept me wanting to play. I didn’t play every single day, but I played whenever I had free time, choosing this game over any others in my “to be played” pile.
That right there says a lot for the story. Because I play video games primarily just for the story. That is why I love these types of games after all and why I review so many of them here on my blog.
Replay value is also high because if I ever want to unlock all achievements or see other endings or other branching plot points, I will need to replay.
Graphics are hit or miss for me. I will say I like the texture and details. Hair, Beards, Clothing, Grass, and other fine small details look extremely natural and nice.
The downside of the graphics is that while Alaska can be a beautiful place… It’s also a place that for many months is covered by snow and ice each year. And well that gives it a kinda baren white bleak back drop for our little murder mystery.
Also it just feels SMALL. It feels smaller than most other DONTNOD games. I feel like it consists of 5 locations used over and over and over ad nauseum.
For example, Mary Ann’s House, Tessa and Tom’s General Store, Eddy’s House, The Police Station, and late in the game – Chapter 3, introducing Sam’s House and The Attic. Like I said, about 5 maybe 6 locations – I forgot to mention the cemetery for a brief moment there too.
Everything is grey, everything is bleak, everything is blah. This doesn’t make me want to go to Alaska. Meanwhile, I have legit seen things in real life (TV Brochures etc) that would make me want to go on an Alaskan cruise.
Also the game feels still and lifeless. Alaska is a place of natural beauty and lots of animals. And while they do a good job at Native American culture and animal symbolism, nary is an actual animal present in the game, except a bird here or there.
There is some beautiful story book artwork mixed in here or there at key story points. Look a very very old fashioned fairy tale. All hand painted or wood carved. Full of whimsy and fantasy and full of animals and details. It’s truly a delight to see and much preferred over the bleak almost post apocalyptic actual game environments.
So like I said graphics hit or miss.
Voice acting was good I thought. I almost always like the voice acting in DONTNOD games, and was equally impressed with this one.
Music again hit or miss, there’s not much variance. What’s there is mediocre at best honestly. And some of the vocal tracks aren’t great or memorable. That’s my take. Your mileage may vary. We don’t all have similar music tastes.
In the end my score card would look like this:
Overall: 58/80 73% C “Good Game For Girls” – Read More About My Scoring System Here.
Geeky: 3/5 – Most males don’t really enjoy these types of intellectual puzzle games with little to no action and little control over their characters. Also I think most males will be more closed minded about the whole LGBT+ thing. I think this game is more focused on story and puzzle solving and requires critical thinking and not a twitchy action shooty game. I rate it moderately because unlike Anime visual novels, this one actually gives you some freedom of movement and control at some parts to explore and discover new things like an action adventure game, or when solving puzzles, but those moments are limited. Most the time you’re just watching a movie unfolding and making choices to direct the path of that movie. If that’s your thing cool this is for you – otherwise move along.
Sweetie: 3/5 – Again moderate rating here – while traditionally us ladies love these types of “visual novel” or “puzzle games” – this one just doesn’t tug at my heart strings – and I think us women crave something more deep and personal durring our gameplay experience. I don’t know also if the bleak boring backdrop of this game’s setting really appeals to us girls who prefer bright cute anime styled games over this.
Gameplay: 5/10 – moderate – it’s what’s to be expected of this type of game. You can see why under “Geeky” above, but as a recap, it has little interaction and is mostly like watching a movie unfold instead of directly controlling the action in the game. I’m fine with this – it’s my most preferred genre – but objectively speaking – yeah not much actual “gameplay” aside from there are a large number of puzzles in this particular one, more than most other visual novels tend to have I think. And if you’re into exploring there’s lots of easter eggs and achievements. It’s just the time given to you to explore those things is often limited.
Story: 8/10 – I liked the story – a lot. I already explained at length how it drew me in and I couldn’t put this game down. How I explored every nook and cranny trying to unlock more and more twists and turns in this murder/suicide mystery game. But still, as repeatedly mentioned, I just didn’t connect emotionally to this game. I’m a crier, and this game didn’t make me cry. I just didn’t get “the feels” from this game and I’m not sure why not. Even though I did find the princesses’ “treasure”. Even though I picked the path of love and forgiveness… I still — I felt something, like sympathy or understanding, but I didn’t cry. Detroit Become Human and Life is Strange made me cry… but not this.
Characters: 8/10 – A story is only as good as its characters and one thing I love in a good story is strong character development. The cast is small but their personality shines through and you get a good look at their intellectual thought process and personal motivations and how it all ties back to the fateful night of the murder/suicide. But again since I wasn’t emotionally invested in the story for some reason, I also didn’t really grow to care very deeply about any of the characters.
Replay Value: 10/10 As evidenced by the steam achievement statistics with less than half of the people learning what really motivated Mary-Ann to act that way on that night, well I’d say replay is pretty high and obviously choices are not as black and white as some negative nancies would want you to believe. There is depth here, and grey here, and not really right or wrong answers. I was constantly switching between favoring the feelings of Aly or Ollie. I didn’t believe a single person 100% of the time. There’s always room for differing opinions and always room to forgive or condemn those who have done wrong in the past (in this game, but also just as in real life).
Graphics: 6/10 – Eh I’m torn – am I low balling this too much? It’s just so damn bleak and apocalyptical and boring and the same 5-6 environments just get reused over and over. But the texture is A+++ – Hair and Beards and Clothes all look friggin fantastic – super realistic. And I love the story book art too. I love that even more than the normal environment art. Also as mentioned speaking of environment, where are all the animals and nature and true beauty of Alaska? blah.
Music: 5/10 – MEH – very meh – just finished playing this morning, and like 5 hours later already forgot it all. Nothing stands out. I won’t be buying this soundtrack that’s for sure. There were also some vocal tracks that I really strongly disliked. That’s just my preferences though I suppose…
Voice Acting: 10/10 – I give credit where credit is due. I love 1.) that the game is fully 100% completely voiced (except for I guess the goblin story book – they could have voiced that too – oh well I won’t take any points away for that.) – and 2.) The voice acting is decent – like what we’d see on TV – a real TV show – not a bad anime dub LOL.
Little dirty off topic secret about myself though – in the last 4-5 years I’ve been watching more dubs than subs even though I was anti-dub for like 15 years – shush don’t tell anyone LOL – for one thing, it’s the default setting in most apps – Netflix, crunchy, and others – and I’m lazy – for another thing – slowly bit by bit by bit trying to get my fiance to watch some anime – I’ve got him to watch some movies but he doesn’t have patience for series – even short ones that are like 20-40 episodes lol – and for third thing, I started an anime club – before covid – and most of them all prefer dubs, so that’s what we tend to watch – which works better because everyone can multi task and visit and do other things – sometimes we play games and have anime in the background – so while I SLAM most dubs as garbage… I’ve slowly recently been becoming pro dub – ah no what’s happening to me?! LOL :(.
Overall: 58/80 73% C “Good Game For Girls” – Read More About My Scoring System Here.