There is always that moment in every James Bond film where our hero gets captured by the evil genius. I always roll my eyes when instead of just killing Bond they go off on an egotistical rant and leaves our favorite spy with a chance to equip the gadget that Q showed him at the start of the film, so he can escape and go on to save the day. The reason I bring this up, is that there is a moment in State of Mind that is far more cringe-worthy and ridiculous than any Bond film, and it really goes to demonstrate one of the biggest issues I have with the game.
State of Mind is developed and published by Daedalic, and in it you play as Richard Nolan, who whilst recovering from a car accident finds that his wife and son have gone missing. The aim of the game then is to act as a detective and try and work out just what’s going on. Early on in the game you’re also introduced to the fact that Richard has an alter-ego in another dimension and that he must work with him in order to solve the mystery. Having completed the game I would have preferred not to know this particular piece of information up front as keeping it a mystery would have prolonged the intrigue. One of the earliest issues I had with State Of Mind is that Richard is so unlikable that you actually feel like you want to stop the search for your family as they would actually be far happier without him! The first hour of the game is such a struggle and I actually dropped off to sleep.
From here you go on a journey that deals with subject matters along the lines of AI, terrorism and an evil plot to change humanity as we know. The main gameplay is very reminiscent of Life Is Strange or a TellTale game, however the things that make those games so great is that the story and the characters are engaging and interesting, and you want to spend time with them. One of the biggest faults that State Of Mind has is that none of the characters really ticked those boxes.The gameplay sections around the story do feel shoehorned in. Not one element of these sections, such as controlling drones or hacking into a system feels like it should be there. Most of them do feel like the developers have come up with the story first and then thought of how gameplay elements could be included.
Going back to that James Bond moment I described earlier and it really was a huge issue for me and really demonstrated the lack of thought that has gone in to some of the game design. One of the main characters has just been captured, a deal has been rescinded and they have been threatened with death. At this point the bad guy turned his back to take a phone call leaving our character to do as they please, in a room with a machine to make sedative drugs, instructions on how to do so, and a syringe containing a lethal injection! I wonder just how I escaped? I know it’s just a game but this really was bad writing and game design and it made me quite angry. It took me out of the experience I was having. In addition to that, towards the end of the game there is another moment where you have to place a transmitter to send a signal. There were three possible places for it to be sited, and all three were in close proximity to each other that it would be inconceivable for there to be a difference in signal strength between them. Yet the first had awful signal strength, the second was slightly better and the third was optimal. Again, it felt like a shoehorned-in gameplay mechanic. Every time you have to send or analyse data also means a trek back to your home computer (called a Cloudhub) so there is obviously no mobile internet in the future either, which results in a lot of needless running between locations. Some of the moving between locations is also just a trigger for another cutscene.
Lots of negatives so far but it’s not all bad. The story is really interesting and the middle few hours contains a lot of mystery and intrigue, and I was really gripped by it. However, it took me around ten hours to complete State Of Mind, and by hour seven I had really had enough. There are too many needless minutes spent moving between locations, quite a few pointless sections, like the malfunctioning smart apartment, that could have been trimmed to make State Of Mind a shorter and more fun six hour game. I am not going to completely write off this game as it does have some good points, but they are far outweighed by the shoddy character control and the shoehorned in gameplay elements. It’s a real shame as the story is interesting enough that it wouldn’t feel out of place in an episode of a show like Black Mirror. Graphically its also quite nice, with all the elements quite obviously being polygons, but it works and gives a futuristic effect. There are a couple of stand-out scenes that also really work well, such as the creepiness of Sally the robot nanny and the drone section where you are following the evil doctors through a lab. But these don’t do enough for me to redeem State Of Mind from being a decent story that’s been roughly converted into a game.