Tell Me Why Review – Dontnod tackles a difficult subject

Tell Me Why is from Dontnod Studios.  After their success with Life Is Strange, I was curious what other realms Dontnod would explore, and it seems the apple hasn’t fallen that far from the tree. 

Dontnod’s newest game is once again an episodic narrative game with characters who have special powers, deal with heavy issues, and feels almost like it could have been titled Life is Strange 3. 

The story revolves around a pair of twins Alyson and Tyler who are given a special power to share memories.  Yet again, this power is neither explored nor explained.  It’s just a storytelling element for the game to explore previous events.

It’s probably important to mention that Tyler is transgender, being born a female, and is now a male in the story. Yet the only reason I feel compelled to bring it up is due to how often the game pushes the issue as if it wants people to notice how progressive this is.  Dontnod even released a FAQ regarding this, and the fact is they handled the topic well, exactly how I hope other studios treat transgender characters.  

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Emily is Away <3 Review – Returning to the well for the third time

Emily is Away ❤ is the third installment in the Emily is Away series.  Once again players are taken into the world of retro chat agents with a compelling and interesting look at the world and story. 

In Emily is Away <3, the developers have taken a step forward and migrated from the AIM parody platform of the first two games to a spoof on Facebook, called Facenook.  While a majority of the game is focused on the Facenook Messenger, there’s a decent look at Facenook and the experience of using it to form a social circle.

And once again, Emily is Away ❤ is heavy with nostalgia for a bygone era of the early, less commercial Facebook.   It’s the beginning of the social media craze.  Where Emily is Away, and Emily is Away Too stoked memories of chatting on AOL’s messenger, Emily is Away ❤ can effortlessly bring those same feelings to the surface.

Nostalgia however will only go so far though a majority of Americas will likely be familiar with Facebook, the messenger on the app is perhaps a different story.  The fact that so much of Emily is Away ❤ is based on the original form of Facebook as well may cause some issues for the nostalgia, but that might be overcome by the story. 

Emily is Away ❤ delves into the deep interpersonal relationship between a variety of people.  Where the first game focused on conversations with someone named Emily and how AIM kept people connected yet at arm’s reach, Emily is Away Too added in a love triangle to develop a more interesting and deeper look when talking to two characters, Emily and Evelyn.

Emily is Away ❤ goes all out, and rather than just use a pair of characters, Emily is Away ❤ seems to develop a whole social group.  There are at least seven characters that the player can interact with and have conversations with.   

Though Emily is Away ❤ remains stuck with the original game’s one major issue.  Players can’t really “talk” to anyone in the game, rather players can choose from three different messages to decide what their response will be.  Players then will mash the keyboard to pretend to be typing it out or turn on Autotype, but overall it’s not exactly a deep experience. 

However, this is also where Emily is Away ❤ starts to have new issues.  Where the original two titles were limited to just a messenger app with the expectation that you would focus there, Facenook, the in-universe Facebook equivalent, has pages you can flip through on each character.  But also the Facenook Messenger is rather slow, with responses appearing about every twenty or thirty seconds instead of five.   So much of the game is either pretending to type a response, waiting to hit enter, or just waiting for the next message to pop up. 

While Emily is Away ❤ is broken up into five chapters, it was only around the middle of chapter three where I started to struggle with the response speed, and yet there was no way to change it. 

Still, when the messages arrived, Emily is Away ❤ delivers that same intimate feeling the first two titles had, where you feel like you’re able to connect with people through the game, the writing is top-notch and can manipulate people into feeling that this is more than a game, even as it’s a fully scripted experience. 

The intimacy though leads to the second major issue with Emily is Away <3.  Ultimately this is a story-driven game, and while players will want to ‘win’ the game and earn the best ending, potentially wanting a deeper more meaningful relationship with their chosen paramour… that’s not to be. 

There are multiple endings possible in Emily is Away <3, however, a “best” ending isn’t available from the start of the game.  According to sources online, players will have to complete one playthrough and then attempt a second playthrough of the opposite character due to a choice between Emily and Evelyn still existing in this title. 

The issue is that this comes after approximately 4 hours, and if players choose to chase the other character, they’re in for around the same length of time.  That long twenty-second delay between messages seems to be permanently forced on players, and suddenly there’s less reason to explore Facenook even with some new characters becoming available. 

Ultimately Emily is Away <3’s biggest flaw is how much the developer asks of players to just experience the majority of the game.  There are five playthroughs required just to get the major endings, approximately four additional smaller endings possible.  But Emily is Away ❤ makes it hard for players to want to return to the game to experience the alternate pathways due to the experience provided.

It’s not that Emily is Away ❤ is a poor game.  I had a consistent flashback to feelings that I was involved in romantic discussions with people online, the same experience that the previous two titles provoked, but where the previous titles made me want to experience more of the game, Emily is Away ❤ left me more annoyed by the mechanics presented, than enjoying the experience that had just occurred.

It’s a shame, but I feel like I had to force myself grinding through the slow messages just to chase a better ending, because ultimately, a little different text isn’t enough of a reward to replay such a long game, nor would I want to replay it three more times for different results.  

It’s the reason I won’t be returning and the reason I can’t recommend this title, even while I enjoyed myself for the first playthrough. 

I give Emily is Away ❤ an arbitrary 


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The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker – A solid story that tries too hard in its conclusion

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is an FMV game where players take on the role of a psychiatrist and sees several patients.

Oddly on the first day, the player finds out that the previous psychiatrist was brutally murdered potentially by one of his patients, strange because that seems to be something that probably should have come up during the interview process.

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker focuses on the player having sessions with multiple patients and through them learning about the patient’s lives and previous doctor, the titular Doctor Dekker. The core of the experience is to try to solve who murdered Doctor Dekker and try to steer the lives of the patients.

The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker is an FMV game and what that means is everything is a video, so similar to Her Story or Telling Lies, every response to a question will be a video. There are several actors in The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, and they all do a very good job with the material. Their acting and the presentation of the responses are what drew me into the game and the story keeps me interested in finding out what would happen next.

Doctor Dekker’s patients are not typical of psychiatrists, in fact of the five initial patients, each has a unique and interesting story claiming some supernatural ability. These abilities are quite reasonable, one character claims he gets an extra hour each day, and another claims she can charm people. There’s nothing outlandish as a typical comic book superpower, but instead realistic powers that could also be forms of mental illness.

What’s interesting though is that Doctor Dekker starts this process by playing it very ambiguous with characters just presenting their problems and their initial thoughts of Doctor Dekker. Over time though the story continued and I saw more and more of .. well the madness promised by the game. The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker has some clever scenes that will make players wonder what they just saw. I’m quite impressed with the experience and fell in love with the game as I played.

There are a few issues with the experience. While the game pushes the idea of natural discussion between you and patients, it’s very clear that the game has very specific ideas about what you would be asking. If the patent says “I hope you’re not a psycho” You could respond “Psycho” “I’m not a psycho” “you are a Psycho” or more, and the game will take each response as if you said the keyword “Psycho”.

Your spelling will also matter and there are a few words that are a bit particular even to someone who loves the written word. The game also has a decent amount of Britishisms, such as the word lorry for a truck that comes up early in one character’s story. It’s not a huge problem, but American players will feel this game is clearly from another country from some of the phrases the characters use.

What’s interesting is that players can make a few choices along the way in their responses to players, perhaps suggesting patients push their powers to the limits or avoid using their powers. These choices appear to mostly focus on minor changes during the next day’s session, which is a bit of a shame because the actual results are underwhelming. The game uses these choices to summarize the entire story at the end, but sadly, I found these to be lacking.

At the end of the game you’re expected to have found the killer, while this is random in each game, the choice in my game was a bit obvious. She was the only killer who made sense. The experience of the randomized killer is acceptable if a bit gimmicky. From there though, the player gets follow-up videos on each character.

Much of The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker hinges on the ambiguous nature of the story. While all the characters may have powers beyond what we consider normal, it’s also possible some of them may have other issues masquerading as these powers, and that’s what made the story interesting for me.

The issue I have with the ending is rather than leave the story open, it tries to strip the ambiguous nature of the story away, so players feel they have a definitive ending. There are two endings per character, but neither improves the story. There’s also a generic ending for the character you’re playing and those don’t make a lot of sense.

The fact is if I was to consider the game before the finale, I’d probably give this game a 9 or even higher because the experience was so well handled and delivered, and at the end of the game I wanted more.

The problem is these finales end the experience and leaves the player with too much closer. Your story is done, there are no questions to ask. Time to go play something else.

It’s a game that probably could have been 10 minutes shorter and been a whole lot more enjoyable.

Because of the endings, I give The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker a


I still recommend this for fans of Visual Novels or anyone who enjoyed Her Story or Telling Lies, but I would recommend both of those games over this.

If you want more of my opinions on The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, you can find that on a video I recently did comparing this game to Her Story that is available here:

Her Story Design Review – Revisiting one of the best video game stories of all time

I’m Kinglink and this week we’re talking about Her Story as well as some other FMV games including Late Shift, The Infectious Madness of Dr. Dekker, and Telling Lies.

Long time fans of the channel may realize I have a fondness for stories in video games and have enjoyed many visual novels, including Eliza, the first two Danganronpa, and more due to their stories. Yet I often feel that stories and narratives are poorly done in the video game industry, usually relying on how movies and books tell stories without considering the interactive nature of the medium.

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Eliza – Review – What happens when a studio who has mastered game play, focuses on a story.

Played on Windows.
Also on Linux and macOS.

Zachtronics has been one of the studios that I’ve continuously supported. I’ve owned and played all their games from this team, and have loved pretty much all of them. So about a month ago when it was announced that Zachtronics would be putting out a Visual Novel, I was sold just by the studio’s history even if it was a departure from the type of game they are known for.

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