Mental illness is a sensitive subject. Throughout history, the problems people have faced when it comes to mental health have had countless names and even more treatments with varied levels of success. Though mental health issues have become better understood since the publication of the DSM-IV, there is still a long way to go in terms of public understanding, diagnosis and treatment. While we have moved past the days of lobotomies and shock therapy, it is important that those kinds of treatments be relegated to the history books and never be brought back. Hopefully, the only way such treatment would ever make a resurgence is if we end up in a dystopian cyberpunk world like the one in Mind Scanners.
You play as a titular mind scanner who is given the task of responding to reports of anomalous citizens within the futuristic city called The Structure. Each citizen you encounter presents with a different mental abnormality that can range from a personality disorder, being a workaholic, suffering from post-traumatic stress or having extreme paranoia just to give a few examples. You have the task of scanning each person’s mind in order to diagnose their condition and then make the decision to declare them sane or insane. If you declare them insane, you follow up by giving them their necessary treatment.
During the treatment sections, you will see a series of symbols that will each require a separate device to clear. Each device you use is like a separate mini-game within the treatment session where you’ll have you use the correct instrument to clear the different symbols representing the patient’s level and intensity of insanity. You have a limited amount of time to finish the treatment, but if you run out of time, you can resume the following day. Each time you perform a treatment on a citizen, it also causes their personality to gradually diminish. You can prevent the reduction in personality if their personality bar hasn’t reached zero, but once that does happen, nothing else can be done to reverse it.
Your overall objective in the game is to reunite with your daughter who is trapped in a strange room. The options you take in how you treat the citizens ultimately affect whether or not you accomplish that goal and what method you use to reach that goal. You can either be completely loyal in your role as a mind scanner and purge as many minds as possible, or you can be loyal to the resistance group and not treat anyone and let chaos flow into the streets.
Each citizen you interact with has a unique personality and design and they add their own insights not only to the in-game world, but to the mental health spectrum as well. It is not as easy to diagnose each person you come across since each of their diagnoses are unique and there is no clear right or wrong answer for declaring someone sane or insane.
This becomes slightly less true if you play through the game multiple times in order to unlock multiple endings. If you intend to make a broad action with every citizen you treat or you already know the consequences from making a mistake, you likely won’t make that same mistake again.
I don’t know if I can expect Mind Scanners to be a ground-breaking game, but it’s fun, it’s harmless and it could potentially raise awareness about mental health, which means we’re moving in the right direction in more ways than one.
Final Score: 9/10