There is one phrase that makes every reviewer’s blood run cold. One thing that goes against every fibre of our beings. “I don’t know.” We’re here to know. Knowing is what we do and what we’re good at. If it’s good, we’ll tell you, if it isn’t that’s fine too. What isn’t fine is when we hit an impasse. This is the massively frustrating state I find myself in with State of Mind. This is the first game I’ve played in a long time where I’m thinking, “I’m not sure I like this,” yet for some completely inexplicable reason just keep coming back for more. This, I feel, is going to be an interesting one.
So State of Mind falls into the same genre as games like Firewatch for me, sort of a virtual novel with a bit more to it. You take on the role of Richard, a journalist who wakes up in hospital having been in a cab crash. As with any good thriller, you’ve lost some of your memory and have to go abut putting the pieces back together to find out what happened to you. Your wife has also left you and taken your kid as well so life isn’t really a huge amount of fun. While playing the role of Richard you will also find yourself taking control of a character called Adam. Where Richard lives in the grizzly dystopian city of Berlin, Adam lives in an almost idyllic environment. Other than this very obvious difference, the lives of the two right down to the fact they have both been in a nasty car accident are scarily similar.
I’m going to very deliberately leave the plot there. As I say, this is a story driven game and if I go ruining it for you it’s a little bit pointless you playing. So the story sounds interesting right? Well it is. The story isn’t the reason why I’m finding myself in the quandary I’m in at the moment. Actually let me rephrase that. The content of the story isn’t necessarily the issue. The problem. for me at least, is the pace.
This is Richard his life has taken a definite turn for the worse.
Maybe I’m just used to playing games where the action hits you fairly early on. With State of Mind I felt like I was playing for an absolute age without really even getting a feel for what was going on around me. On top of this, for something to really hook you, you have to like the characters, or at least some of them. Sadly, Richard’s personality just grated on me from the get go. There is a subtle difference between having a dark and brooding hero and a rude abrasive one. Let’s just say Richard is not someone I’d want to go for a beer with, infact I’d be wanting to punch him after about five minutes of talking to him.
Something I genuinely do like about this game is the setting. There is an interesting play between Richard’s dark and gritty world in which robots are slowly becoming a threat to society and that of Adam’s. Adam’s city is heaven in comparison to Berlin and it appears that humans work in harmony with the robots there. The thing about Adam’s world, and I need to be a bit careful here to avoid spoilers, is that it doesn’t feel quite real. You get a real sense when you’re playing as him that there’s something amiss but you can’t put your finger on it until you truly understand the relationship between the two characters.
Adan’s story runs in tandem with Richard;s in a very interesting way.
The game is also designed in scenes. This could be seen as a plus and a minus. Players wanting an expansive world to explore won’t get that itch scratched in this title. On the other hand, this is very much a novel so it makes sense that the game would want you to stay within the bounds of the story. I can see totally what the devs are going for here and I’m happy to roll with the way everything is laid out so no complaints there.
The gameplay, though a bit slow isn’t actually bad at all. It involves a lot of talking to different characters, interacting with your environment and piecing things together as you go. You’re possibly a tiny bit rail-roaded because you can’t just do your own thing but like I just said it’s not that sort of game. You need to complete a certain amount of objectives in each scene to further the story and move onto the next. For me, this is quite an old school approach and I actually like it. I think that a game that focuses so deeply on story shouldn’t stray from it’s plot so this can only be a good thing.
Robots are everywhere. You will decide whether or not they are a threat.
The graphics, something I rarely go into in any depth are important here. The artistic choice that’s been made seems to adopt a very modern graphical style for the backdrop while making the characters look like something off the Sega Saturn. There’s a very polygonal look to the people you come across in the game and, indeed, yourself. This is kind of an odd feeling for me. I actually don’t really like the overall look of the characters you meet, however, the early 2000’s were a big part of the evolution in my gaming career. With this being said I can’t help but find something nostalgic and lovable in the character design that I feel many modern gamers might find a bit flawed.
Something else that is very important to anything really story driven is good voice acting. You want to feel like you are part of the game. It’s so important to connect with the characters in ever way and I think it’s lacking a bit here. For me, the voice overs are a bit dated in style even for my liking. Remember the voice acting from Resident Evil? We didn’t see any issues with it at the time but now it all seems a little bit laughable. I’m getting the same thing here. The nostalgic bone in my body is absolutely loving the voice-overs in State of Mind, however, the adult gamer that has been and done all of this and can see things a bit more objectively less so. The frustrating thing is I’m not sure whether the design choices both visually and audially are deliberate. I they’re attempting to hark back to a by gone age I’m 100% there with them and they’ve absolutely nailed it. If not … well to be honest I’m not quite sure what they were aiming at.
To sum up. The gameplay isn’t bad at all and actually the game in and of itself is pretty fun to play. The story is well written and although a bit on the slow side draws you in just enough to make you want to know what’s coming next. You definitely need patience with State of Mind. If you want something that will be a thrill-ride this probably isn’t the title for you. If you want to know exactly what’s going on from the intro, I would say the same applies. If you happen to be looking for a bloody well written thriller and are just ready to roll with it I think there is a lot to love here. When it comes to the actual aethetics I think it will come down to the individual player. Personally I’m completely torn between the teenage me that knew this sort of thing very well and loved it and the adult that’s used to a bit more. All in all play State of Mind without expectation and take the whole experience for what it is and I think the game will prove and interesting experience at the very least.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A well written thriller.
Look and feel - 7/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Story - 8/10
State of Mind has a really well written, interesting story that is definitely worth experiencing. The over all design choices made in the game are going to be quite polarizing for players. Just take it for what it is and don't have any preconceptions and I think you will actually have quite a lot of fun. All in all this is going to be a case of different strokes for different folks but for the plot at the very least this is worth a try.