Game Review: Tell Me Why

Thought I’d mix things up a bit today and talk about a game I recently very much enjoyed playing, despite the fact that it got Backstreet Boys stuck in my head for days. What game is this, you ask (having apparently not read the title of this post)?

Tell Me Why is a mystery at its heart – two twins reunite in their hometown as adults to solve the mystery of their mother’s death – but it’s a choice-based game, meaning that every decision you make could shift the way the story goes and the way characters interact with you. It takes place in rural Alaska, and the scenery and animation are absolutely gorgeous, but none of these things were what drew me to the game. Predictably, my reason for deciding to play this game was because one of the twins, Tyler Ronan, is a trans man.

And not only is he a trans man, he is an awesome trans man. Does he have a lot of bitterness for having been sent away from his twin when he was a kid for a murder he didn’t actually commit? Well, yeah. But aside from that, he’s a cool, confident, funny dude who I both deeply relate to and aspire to be more like. Tyler is Goals, both for his confident attitude and his killer haircut and stubble.

The story itself is complex and interesting, the dialogue is funny and well-written, the integration of the twins’ telepathy and ability to manifest memories is a very cool game mechanic, and the voice acting is perfect. Tyler is played by a trans actor, which is fantastic, and Police Chief Eddy Brown, a member of the native Alaskan Tlingit clan, is played by an actor from the same clan. There’s a deep authenticity about so much that went into this game, and that makes it all the more enjoyable.

The gameplay itself is often slow, and the controls are sometimes irritating, but for the most part, I really enjoyed playing it, and I think it’s a real win for trans representation. It dives into mental health issues, too, and does it well, though be warned that players with anxiety (read: me) may find a certain scene in the third chapter – in which Alyson, Tyler’s twin, goes through an intensely realistic panic attack – difficult to play through. I had to mute the audio, personally, and the fact that I couldn’t figure out what the game was asking me to do to help Alyson through the panic attack – which, yes, is a playable moment – just added to my dislike of that scene.

With that said, I do think it’s good that they show a main character dealing with panic, but it was difficult for me, as someone who actually gets panic attacks, to see one portrayed in such searing detail.

In any case, the game is available on Steam, and the first “episode” is currently free if anyone wants to check it out. I found this game very enjoyable and interesting, though I absolutely cheated my way through most of the puzzles by looking up their solutions online. But that’s how I tend to play most games, as I’m not particular gifted at puzzle-solving, and I’d much rather move forward in the story than get increasingly frustrated as I struggle to figure out what the game wants me to do.

So, yes, bottom line: Good game is good. Definitely check it out if you think it’s something you’d enjoy.

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