Drama is everywhere. It can be as high stakes as the fate of the Earth all the way down to Xenoblade Chronicles 3 discourse. Despite its ubiquitous nature, drama is not a tangible thing, just something we observe as a function of our relationship-oriented brains. We define our world through conflict, which doesn’t create a perfect system. Memory is unreliable, assumptions color our perspectives and raw emotion can make the whole thing a bloody mess. Sometimes literally.
Such is the case in Tell Me Why, a narrative adventure from Dontnod, the studio that popularized angsty, episodic, interactive dramas with Life is Strange. Fans will find similar notes here as the game unravels a murder mystery involving telepathic twins as they try to unpack a tortured past. The studio has made the game available free on PC and Xbox to celebrate Pride (giving you some extra cash to donate to a worthy cause).
Tell Me Why focuses on the journey of trans character Tyler, pulling no punches on the potential trauma trans kids face when their family members don’t accept them. The game opens with 10-year-old Tyler telling police he had to kill his mother in self-defense after she pulled a gun on him for cutting his hair. The story is heavy but poignant, earning multiple GLAAD awards for its excellent portrayal of a heavy topic.
At its heart, Tell Me Why is a point-and-click adventure. There’s no combat or crafting, the only thing driving the experience is your own curiosity and attachment to the characters. It’s hard to delve into what makes the game special without spoilers, but know that there are many twists along the way that will challenge what you thought you knew about the story and the characters’ motivations.
The game’s supernatural element stands in stark contrast to the grounded approach of the main characters. Tyler and his sister Alyson experience a telepathic connection they call the Bond, which they have to explore through their own mental trauma.
Tyler’s story begins with his release from juvenile detention, but soon the script flips as we find out more about Alyson’s own struggles. Watching the two vividly recall the abuse they went through can be a challenge, but what good is a story-driven game if it doesn’t make you squirm a little?
Tell Me Why is also a game about choices. As Tyler and Alyson psychically recreate these awful memories you have to decide which version represents the truth. This can be informed by your intuition, or from information you’ve learned as you talk to other people in your hometown (or from snooping through everyone’s stuff). There are two possible endings for the game allowing some room for multiple playthroughs.
Tell Me Why is a great example of the power of a good story. It hooks you almost instantly, and the heavy subject matter pairs perfectly with strong performances inside a rich, detailed setting. You’ll feel immersed in the game and invested in the outcome. It’s got three chapters and a playtime of around 10 hours, so there’s plenty of time left this month to experience one of the best LGBTQ+ stories of this generation.