State of Mind makes quite an impression with its striking aesthetic. Low-poly character models set to realistic environments and modern rendering features creates a unique visual identity. While this combination has its limits, State of Mind ultimately succeeds at what it sets out to do: Telling a down-to-earth story about a father’s pursuit of his family.
State of Mind
Set in the year 2048, Richard Nolan, a prolific journalist, finds himself at odds with society’s continual technological ascent. As robots gradually assimilate to every day society, Richard finds himself increasingly downtrodden. Dissociating from the modern lifestyle, he finds solace in human-to-human interaction.
Richard’s compassion for his wife and son sets the stage for State of Mind‘s 8-10 hour trans-humanist tale. By the first hour’s end, it settles into its narrative crux. Post-traumatic stress and amnesia are side-effects of the car crash Richard finds himself in during the game’s opening. Unable to remember large chunks of his life, he eventually contacts Adam Newman, another loving father living in a more idealized civilization. The dichotomy between Nolan’s dystopian hellhole and Newman’s utopic bliss reinforces State of Mind’s visual decadence.
Without delving too deeply, the duo’s inexorably linked lifestyles leads to Newman acquiring fragments of Richard’s memory.
The story jumps back and forth between Richard and Adam’s daily lives as Newman feeds Nolan pieces of his memory. Richard deconstructs the memory fragments, then sends them back to Adam as he is the only person capable of viewing them through his cloud hub (network account running off a PC). Their relationship experiences a range of emotions, never feeling forced or contrived. Even by the end, Richard and Adam never encroach upon the stereotypical “unlikely allegiance turns into friendship” territory. The constant distrust, yet willful agreement continues throughout.
While Richard and Adam’s dynamic doesn’t see massive growth, the mystery at the game’s heart will keep you invested. The aforementioned memory fragments serve as pieces to a larger puzzle; one involving the disappearance of Richard’s wife and son. Having seemingly dropped off the earth’s surface without a trace, finding out what happened to them forms a mystery that continues to escalate.
As Nolan comes closer to locating his family, a grander conspiracy reveals itself. I won’t spoil the larger subplot at hand, but considering the setting, it won’t come as a surprise to most people.
That’s not to say that State of Mind lacks subtlety. With multiple plot twists, it’s bound to surprise every player at least once. Unfortunately, State of Mind overstays its welcome by about 2-3 hours. After a specific point involving an escape, it seemed as if the story was approaching its climactic finish only to fizzle out with an elongated whimper. That ending, too, comes abruptly. It technically ends with plot threads tied up, but without the sense of impact you’d expect out of a story-driven adventure game.
It just ends.
Featuring at least two endings I know of, they both seem arbitrarily imposed upon the player depending a handful of choices during the game’s final act. Dialogue responses never appear to impact anything beyond the immediate conversation. Maybe you’ll get a trophy/achievement for building a bond with Adam’s son, but his demeanor toward the player remains stagnant.
Like most adventure games, the core gameplay revolves around conversations and light puzzle solving. With only two repeat puzzle types and a few off-hand environmental puzzles, State of Mind rarely pushes you to think outside the box. Fortunately, due to the narrative’s time-sensitive nature, it’s rarely detrimental. With that said, most of its puzzles are so simplistic they may as well have been discarded.
Deconstructing memory fragments as Richard for playback on Adam’s cloud hub is nothing more than matching tiles to create an image. You begin with a single tile, altering every other tile around it in a 360 degree circle until you’ve created a full space. These segments take under a minute at the longest. Considering how passive the process is, these segments could have been cut entirely, shaving several minutes off the game’s excessive run-time.
The other main puzzle type consists of sifting through documents and files on a board. You match the three documents that fit the most closely and that’s about it. Aside from this, State of Mind does pull a few interesting situational puzzles at the player. Though, with one or two exceptions, they’re no more difficult than the bread and butter. They might as well have been relegated to non-interactive cinematics with heightened direction.
While most of State of Mind‘s gameplay remains simplistic with little interaction, a few one-off sections punctuate specific story beats. These segments, typically controlling more like “traditional” games, drag on far too long. While they act as pace-breakers from the usual gameplay, most last at least twice as long as they should.
One stealth section involving a drone navigating air shafts overstays its welcome 4 minutes in. Yet, it goes on for another 6-8 minutes beyond that. With little narrative fed through this sequence, it tested my patience. Another gameplay section involved switching between cameras, shooting turrets at drones, allowing allies to escape to safety. On paper, they seem like decent ways to break up the core game’s simplicity, but their length ends up harming the experience more than anything. I just wanted to get back to the story every time the game forced me to sit through another “traditional” one-off gameplay sequence.
As mentioned before, While State of Mind‘s visual style consistently impresses, the minutia leave a lot to be desired. Due to their low-poly nature, character’s facial animations never appear convincing enough to sell emotion. Other animations, such as the way characters interact with certain objects or how arms animate during conversations, detract from more pivotal moments.
Voice acting, on the other hand, is all over the place. Sometimes voiced lines from the same actor within the same scene sound phoned-in compared to others. It’s never bad enough to completely shatter the illusion. This isn’t Heavy Rain levels of bad, but more consistency could have gone a long way. Background npc chatter, though, is on a whole new level. State of Mind‘s opening scene features the most phoned-in chatter from a group of npc’s post 1999.
State of Mind is more about the journey than the destination. Soaking in the atmosphere and passively accepting certain absurd plot developments is key to appreciating the game for what it is. It may have some baggage, but at the end of the day, it’ll keep you invested in Richard and Adam’s plight.
Disclaimer: Review code provided by publisher
State of Mind
More about the journey than the destination, State of Mind is an entertaining narrative romp provided you can overlook its quirks.
- Beautiful visual style
- Compelling goose-chase
- Last 2-3 hours drag
- Certain gameplay sequences overstay their welcome
- Some off-putting performances and animations