Mental illness is a sensitive topic. Throughout history, the problems people have faced have had countless names and even more treatments with varying levels of success. Mental health issues have become better understood since the publication of the DSM-IV. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of public understanding, diagnosis and treatment. I am glad we have moved past the days of lobotomies and shock therapy. It’s important that those kinds of treatments must never be brought back. Hopefully such treatments will be confined to fictional cyberpunk dystopias like the one in Mind Scanners.
You play as a titular mind scanner tasked with responding to reports of anomalous citizens within the futuristic city called The Structure. Each citizen you encounter presents with a different mental abnormality. These can range from a personality disorder, being a workaholic, suffering from post-traumatic stress or having extreme paranoia. You have to scan each person’s mind to diagnose their condition and then 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. You’ll have you use the correct instrument to clear the different symbols representing the patient’s level and intensity of insanity. If you run out of time before finishing a treatment, 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. Once that happens, nothing else can be done to reverse it.
Your overall objective in the game is to reunite with your daughter. 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. 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 is unique. 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 to unlock multiple endings. If you intend to make a broad action with every citizen you treat or you already know the consequences of 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.