What would you do if you were thrust into a position of authority, one where everyone had to listen to you? A job where you had no clue what you were doing but where the consequences could shape the fate of people’s lives. This is a question that Mind Scanners proposes to you; The Outer Zone’s strange and fascinating dystopian doctor simulator. It’s a question that is endlessly fascinating and one that is fairly well executed in its conclusions and the path it takes you on.
Similar to games like “Paper’s, Please,” Mind Scanners is essentially a collection of minigames wrapped around an engaging story packed with interesting ethical choices. It’s set in a city called the “Structure” which is quickly revealed to be a dysfunctional and isolated society. A megalopolis that is trapped inside a giant crater that blocks off the rest of the world.
Living in a dystopian society is stressful and not exactly beneficial to one’s mental health and that’s where you come in. You work as a “mind scanner”; a tech psychologist using a variety of tools and gadgets to attempt to help them. You have a certain amount of time everyday to go to a collection of patients each with their own problems and personalities. You make cash on every patient you help, which you can use to pay rent and buy new medical equipment.
You start by mindscanning the patients, which is a Rorschach test in which they state what they see. Then through that, you can interpret these answers and make a decision on whether they are sane or insane.
If they do end up being insane, you must use a crew of tools to fix whatever types of insanity that plagues them. There are eight different symbols that correlate to eight different mental problems. Each tool corresponds to these as you build a toolset to cover them. These tools manifest themselves into a series of minigames; complete it correctly and some of the symbols get destroyed.
Each patient has a varying amount of the different symbols. A large portion of the game is spent inside these appointments, under the clock, trying to complete the minigames as fast as possible to fix the patients.
These minigames have varying levels of difficulty and are generally pretty creative. There is an excellent variety in them, and whilst none of them are similar, each offers a unique challenge. They are bite-sized because you have to complete each multiple times per patient.
The games are entertaining at the beginning, although as you progress further through the story, they start losing their spark. You can only complete the same minigames so many times before they start getting stale. Admittedly, the runtime is short enough that it’s not too much of a problem, but it’s certainly something that should be considered.
Where things get really interesting with Mind Scanners is in the moral implications of these appointments. You have to pay rent and so if you don’t make enough money you will be banished and the game is over. So it actually benefits you to declare people insane, because you get more cash for “curing” them. Mind Scanners fast becomes a balancing act of making money and being ethical or… not.
Different groups and people will contact you about who you should treat, how you should treat them, and what you should do. Depending on your decisions, there are multiple different endings and you’ll want to work through them, mostly as the story is super engaging and the endings vary wildly encouraging replayability.
Finally it must be mentioned how much of a visual and audio treat Mind Scanners is. It has this clean pixelated aesthetic with a heavy focus on dark futuristic red. Accompanying this is some simple amazing music, that is both catchy and moody. It builds an ambience and a sense of place that is mesmerizing.
The biggest compliment that I can give to Mind Scanners is that it is simply mesmerizing; completely engaging from beginning to end. It’s not incredibly long and the minigames can get pretty dry, but the story, atmosphere, and moral systems will keep you glued to the screen, even bringing you back to get some of the other endings.
If you’re looking for something different, Mind Scanners comes with a huge recommendation.
Mind Scanners is available from the Xbox Store