The main character in sci-fi adventure title State of Mind is a bit of a dick. Award winning journalist he may be, but Richard Nolan is not a very likeable character at all. He cheats on his wife, struggles to connect with his son James, and has a dislike for technological advances that gives him a holier-than-thou attitude to those around them. If anyone could do with a bout of amnesia, and possibly a personality transplant, it’s Richard.
When a mysterious accident puts him in a medical clinic – with no memory of how he got there – he wakes to find that his wife and son have disappeared, and it may not be down to his disagreeable personality. As he tries to find out what happened to his family, Richard connects with Adam Newman – a resident of the idyllic City 5, whose life bears a striking resemblance to his own, and together they delve into a conspiracy that taps into the very future of the human race itself.
Set on Earth in 2048, State of Mind hits all the bases you’d expect from this sort of futuristic thriller. Robotic proliferation, resource scarcity, oppressive governments, and all-powerful corporations, they all make an appearance as you progress through the eight or so hour story. It’s far from the most gripping tale in this genre, but it does a fair job of going to some unexpected places. That said, to buy into the narrative you’ll frequently have to suspend your disbelief, as different story threads get woven together using deus ex machina story beats that are far too convenient and neat.
With a linear path, and very clear signposting for what you need to do, you’ll move through the story and locations at a fast pace, while uncovering new details about the conspiracy, and even switching control between a few unexpected characters at various points in the plot. This is good in one sense, since you’re never left floundering trying to work out what you do next, but on the flipside it isn’t that successful at building your emotional connection to the story, or its central cast of characters. While some characters – such as Richard – feel fleshed-out in terms of their motivations, others feel much less developed, and as mentioned earlier some of their actions feel out-of-place, serving only as convenient plot devices.
This leads to the main narrative being a bit underwhelming, and means the few, more low-key character moments, that are only tangentially related to the main plot – one of which delves into being a cam girl in 2048, albeit with a cartoonish client character – will end up being some of the more memorable, and thought provoking parts of the entire story.
While the first half of State of Mind follows the modern adventure game blueprint closely by focusing primarily on narrative with the occasional puzzle, the second half shifts a bit by introducing more traditional adventure gameplay tropes that have you pressing buttons, switching between characters, and moving elements of the environment around before you can progress. While these puzzles never overstay their welcome – and are easy to solve – they don’t really contribute a great deal to the story, or provide any meaningful challenge for the player.
On a more positive note the visual presentation in State of Mind uses a stylish low polygon approach for both its characters and environments that feels reminiscent of retro titles such as Another World – only with a much higher level of detail. With oddly proportioned character models, loads of sharp angles, and minimalistic architecture, State of Mind has an offbeat style that helps it stand out, and when coupled with an atmospheric soundtrack, it successfully evokes both the dreary environments around Berlin – the main setting in State of Mind – as well as the bright open urban landscape of City 5.
While for most people adventure games are a one and done play-through proposition – and State on Mind is no exception – the asking price at launch is worth noting as it pushes this title firmly out of impulse purchase territory. Priced at £34.99, with a few pounds off if you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber, State of Mind just doesn’t feel like it can justify this price given everything its offering, and the fact there’s very little reason – outside of mopping up any missed Trophies – to experience the story for a second time.
State of Mind offers an intriguing near-future tale that doesn’t quite deliver on its initial mystery. While its cast of flawed – and in some cases unlikeable – characters are interesting to get to know, the plotting ultimately lets things down by failing to get you invested in the story, and asking you to suspend your disbelief a few too many times. While the unique presentation proves to be an excellent fit for the setting, and helps distinguish it from the crowd, the price of entry will scare off anyone who isn’t actively seeking out this type of experience.