Tell Me Why is a narrative adventure game released on 27 August 2020 for Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. The game was developed by Dontnod Entertainment, the creators of the Life is Strange series, and was published by Xbox Game Studios. Tell Me Why has a strong Life is Strange influence around it. But, it is worth stating that Dontnod has exhibited much more maturity in terms of game design surrounding this title. It is the first AAA game to have a transgender character as one of the protagonists. The game was released episodically from late August till mid-September, 2020.
Tell Me Why is yet another adventure narrative title following a small-town theme. The game has a wonderful story with several twists, and the player’s decision moulds the story significantly. The story may seem simple from the outside: it is just a pair of twins investigating the reason for their mother’s mental breakdown and death when they reunite 10 years after the incident. But, as you play the game, you start realizing how horrifying the tale can be. The entire game does not portray a single gunshot, but the story will linger in your hearts much longer than any Call of Duty or Battlefield game. It is an Xbox exclusive, which means players can play it on their Xbox consoles or Microsoft Windows PC only. However, it is available for free with an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Thus, players in qualifying regions can play the game on their mobile devices via Xcloud too.
Price and Editions
Tell Me Why was released episodically in three chapters. Following the criticism Dontnod received with inconsistent chapter releases in their Life is Strange title, they announced that all episodes of Tell Me Why will be released in mid-2020. The three chapters, their names, and release dates are listed below.
|August 27, 2020
|September 3, 2020
|September 10, 2020
The three chapters are continuous and cannot be played individually.
Dontnod made the first chapter free for all platforms on March 10, 2021. The game was also available for free from June 1 to 30, 2021 because of Pride Month.
All three chapters are available for $19.99 on the Microsoft Store and Steam. The game is also available for the same price on Xbox. We have seen the game go for as low as $9.99 in Steam Summer Sales, Black Friday sales, and other sales from select retailers. All three chapters are also available for free along with an Xbox Game Pass Standard or Ultimate subscription.
|Xbox Game Pass Standard Edition
|Xbox Game Pas Ultimate Edition
|$9.99 / month
|$14.99 / month
Tell Me Why is played from a third-person perspective. The pair of twins, Tyler and Alyson Ronan, is the 21-year-old protagonists of the story and both of them are playable characters. Different characters are playable in different parts of the game, and players cannot switch between them at will.
The game has exploration, puzzle-solving, and decision making as its three main gameplay aspects. It does not get hard with the puzzles, but for players who are unwilling to solve them, the game allows them to skip it for a lower percentage score. It heavily focuses on the story and has almost no side missions. The gameplay mostly occurs in and around the twins’ childhood home.
Players can also collect figurines of characters from the childhood fable book, The Book of Goblins, from different parts of the town. These figurines can be used to complete the showcase in their barn’s attic in Chapter 3. However, collecting these figurines is optional, and it will not influence the story of the game.
In all Life is Strange games, we have seen protagonists have a superpower that sets the game apart from the rest of the crowd. Tell Me Why is no exception. The twins, Tyler and Alyson, share a bond that enables them to see their past and reconstruct it accordingly. Most of these memories are found in the Old House, the house in which the twins grew up. Some of them are also found around the town, in the graveyard, in the local store, the police station, etc. This superpower is very essential to the gameplay and it shapes it significantly.
The twins also have different memories of the same incident at times. The player is required to choose which memory they want to side with, and both of the twins accept it for the greater good. These decisions get extremely tough at times and are a bit stressful.
Tell Me Why is based in a small rural Alaskan town named Delos Crossing. The town is the childhood home of the twins and has numerous indigenous Haida and Tlingit habitants. This small-town setting has become quite a staple to Life is Strange styled games, and it is perfect for Tell Me Why.
Most of the game takes place in the twins’ house, 12 Cannery Road. Other important locations seen in the game are Veni, Vidi, Vecchi’s General Store, the Delos Crossing Police Station, the Fireweed Residential Center where Tyler was sentenced for detention, inspector Eddy Brown’s house, and the graveyard. The twins have several childhood memories scattered around these locations and they can be relieved in the respective portions of the game.
Tyler Ronan is a transgender character, and this is the first time a trans character was seen as a protagonist in any AAA title. Developers Dontnod Entertainment has worked with an American NGO, GLAAD, to ensure that Tyler is an accurate representation. The developers also have worked with Huna Heritage Foundation for accurate inclusion of the Tlingit culture into the game.
Plot and Story Progression
The game is mainly linear, and players’ choices affect the ending. It is a strongly narrative-driven experience, and the story has been divided into three chapters which were released between August and September 2020.
Chapter 1: Homecoming
After ten long years from their mother’s death, the twins Tyler and Alyson reunite. They plan to sell the Old House, their childhood home, and move to Juneau, the Alaskan capital city, to start a new chapter in their lives. However, while checking around the house, the twins discover their ability to share their memories over the bond. The twins see several memories and use them to make Tessa Vecchi confess about what was going on with their mother in the final months of her life.
The chapter mostly sees curiosity and unrest resurface among the twins as they decide to unearth the mystery surrounding their mother’s mental breakdown and death. They reach the Delos Crossing police station and meet Alyson’s foster father, Inspector Eddy Brown. The twins interrogate Brown regarding the final days of Mary-Ann’s life and asked whether they could have a look at Mary-Ann’s case file. The inspector responds negatively to both of these.
The chapter ends shortly after a flashback. Overall, the first chapter of the game over-delivered. It did way more than just exposition and Dontnod managed to keep a mystery around Mary-Ann and her death throughout the chapter. However, the beginning scene of Tyler leaving the Firewood Residential Center felt extremely sped up. The game could have focused on how the twins’ lived so long separately to create a more emotional scene in their reunion.
Chapter 2: Family Secrets
Chapter 2 sees a strong shift of tone as the twins become more determined to find out the truth. The scene begins with a flashback to March 1, 2005, the day when their mother died. Although the scene shows much of what happened that night, it still doesn’t show enough. The twins continue packing up and cleaning the Old House of stuff they didn’t need as Sam Kansky, a family friend showed up. Despite all the persuasion of Sam, the twins announced that they will sell the house and move on.
The second chapter also involves fusebox-fixing, as the house had no electricity. The game portrays an extremely simplified version of a fusebox that players are required to fix. Then, the twins leave to see Eddy after a short flashback which proved that Brown hadn’t been seeing Mary-Ann for quite some time before her death.
In the police station, Eddy was having an extremely busy and understaffed day. But, the kids were hell-bent and decided to break into the police archive and check out their mother’s case file. Tyler gets into the archive, goes through several files, recordings, reports, and finds out a lot about the incident. But, Eddy catches them, and the twins force him to speak up about their mother.
After the seriousness, the game shifts to a joyful mood as the twins visit Vecchi’s store. Tom leaves hurriedly after a short conversation and Tyler helps Michael out in closing the store. They have a short game of plushy fight, and the entire mood lights up with the light-hearted conversations between Tyler and Michael.
Shortly after, the twins visit the cemetery with Michael. The place was filled with memories from the twins’ childhood and they find out their mother’s grave. After a short outburst of pain and tears, the twins meet Tessa. On strict interrogation, Tessa was forced to speak up, and some words accidentally slip out of her mouth. This made the twins overly anxious about who their father was. The twins come back from the cemetery after a short conversation and find their barn on fire. A man in a raincoat hit the door open, knocked Tyler unconscious, and ran away. After a short investigation, the twins find a box with a letter from their barn. They open it to see that it was from a man asking their mother for an abortion.
The twins try to use their power to remember who the man their mother was talking to the night she died. But, Tyler pushed Alyson too hard and the scene ends with Alyson leaving her brother alone.
Chapter 3: Inheritance
The third chapter wraps up the story. This chapter answers all of the questions and mysteries created by the first two, and it has two main endings. The chapter begins with Alyson having a nightmare. She woke up in Eddy’s house and spends a stressful morning seeing all kinds of things she hates through the memories. A while later, Michael and Tom Vecchi come around and share a few words with her. After a short conversation, Michael offered to visit Tyler and calm him down from the tense moment the other night.
Alyson then visits Eddy and confesses that it was she who killed Mary-Ann, not Tyler. Eddy was both surprised and confused at the same time. After having a panic attack at the station, she visits Sam Kansky. She asks Sam whether he was their father and during the conversation, she discovers that their barn has a small attic which Sam and Mary-Ann built together. Meanwhile, Michael visits Tyler and they go ice fishing together. The entire mood and conversations become light-hearted again, and the two men share a moment of bliss.
Alyson visits her brother and together they get into the attic where they find a room decorated and built around the characters from the Book of the Goblins. They solve all the puzzles together and find out that their mother had been pregnant once before, and to protect her child, she ran away from her family to Alaska. But, her first son, Leo, died a few days later. All of the revelations shook the twins. They ran to the dock and gave the half-constructed memory a final chance. After some time, they finally realized that the man who their mother was talking to that night was Tom Vecchi.
Vecchi appears shortly after and the twins confront him. He finally accepts that he was their father and asks them to not get the word out. The twins have a final choice to accept either of the two memories: Mary-Ann was angry at Tyler or Mary-Ann was sorry and confused.
Based on the choices throughout the game, the players are presented with two endings.
- If Alyson never admitted that she killed Mary-Ann or the twins believed their version of Mary-Ann’s death, the twins move into the Old House and write a new chapter in the Book of the Goblins. They never sell the house.
- If Alyson admiited that she killed Mary-Ann or the twins believed Tom’s version of Mary-Ann’s death, Alyson moves to Juneau. Tyler empties the Old House, sells it off, and then leaves for Juneau.
Aside from the obvious endings, the ending scene also focuses on a lot more. It is a reflection of all of the major decisions the player takes throughout the story. The ending can see the twins either sticking together or parting ways. Even if they stay together, they might stop using their voice or they can keep using it. Michael and Tyler might enter into a romantic relationship and promote LGBT awareness, or the scene might never happen, and more. However, the most obvious thing in all end scenes is that Tom loses the elections.
None of the endings are bad or good, as we see that the twins are happy in both of them. I faced the second ending as Tom’s version seemed more legitimate to me. The twins must have had a messed up memory of their mother’s death as was seen with some other memories too.
Dontnod is known for creating characters that stick to us far longer than any other game. Tell Me Why is yet another portrayal of how good Dontnod has gotten with this. The main protagonists, Tyler and Alyson Ronan are extremely well-developed. Add to that, the fact that the game goes back and forth between the timelines with flashbacks and memory sequences takes the character development to a whole another level.
Besides the protagonists, the game has a dozen other characters that make the small-town theme up. These include inspector Eddy Brown, store owners Tom and Tessa Vecchi, store worker Michael Abila, family friend Sam Kansky, and more. All of these characters are extremely well-developed. The game almost feels like a buzzing community, and it precisely hits upon the dialogues, the motion capture, and the level design.
Tell Me Why must be the best game Dontnod has ever developed. Everything in the game from the story to the setting and level design feels extremely well done. Add to that, the game is the first-of-a-kind to have a transgender character as a protagonist which acts as an awareness program in itself. We appreciate that move from Dontnod’s part.
This game is a must-play, and considering that it is available with Xbox Game Pass makes it way more affordable. This means players can enjoy the game on Android and iOS devices too. Tell Me Why is an awesome game, and it takes graphic adventure games to a whole another level.
Tell Me Why Review
Tell Me Why is one of the best game Dontnod has ever developed. From the story to the amazing visuals, everything seems perfect.