Mind Scanners

Mind Scanners is a retro-futuristic psychiatry simulator, published by the developers of Yes, Your Grace. You play as a Mind Scanner, a professional psychiatrist in the walled city called The Structure.

Reminiscent of the indie darling Papers, Please, each day you have a certain amount of time to complete tasks associated with your job. In Mind Scanners that job is to assess and treat patients who have displayed erratic behavior. You also need to manage your money. You spend your own money on drugs or new equipment to be more effective in your work, but you also have to make sure you have enough at the end of each day to pay “Maintenance” - a daily tax, where failure to pay results in a game over.

The treatment devices are a mix of puzzle and skill-based minigames. Explaining any of them in detail would be a disservice to you, dear reader. A lot of the fun comes from trying (and possibly failing) to figure out exactly how each one works. Medicines offer simple one-time effects that protect one of the two gauges you have to monitor when treating your patients; stress and personality. A third drug briefly stops time during treatment.

Under pressure, it’s difficult to provide treatment while being mindful of your patient’s personality. Monitoring stress on the other hand is necessary, because once it rises too high treatment ends.

The cast of characters is large enough that when starting a second playthrough I was able to meet characters I didn’t see during my first 42 days as a Scanner. While the game maintains a mostly humorous tone, patients and their behaviors range from completely ridiculous to downright disturbing. The over-the-top characterization of many of the patients makes your encounters with a few of the more relatable people in the game even more poignant.

Once you acquire a flow state during treatment the game is immensely satisfying. Highly skilled players are likely to complete a playthrough without over-stressing or draining the personalities of any patients. During my playthrough, however, I gained a bad reputation for my willingness to completely drain patients to simply get the job done and get paid. In my view that was the point, and part of the social critique that can be drawn from the game. There were moments where I would go so far as to deem a patient “sane” for the sake of getting a pittance for the assessment and making the day’s maintenance. The consequence of that decision ranged from mild ruin to life-and-death.

In Mind Scanners we have a tight path planning and resource management game whose use of skill-based treatment equipment provides enough pressure and urgency to make successful treatment feel like a real accomplishment, and with enough characters and story branches to warrant multiple playthroughs.