Life is Strange is sometimes strange but it skillfully panders to a moment in our lives that is all too well known.
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Price: 4.99 USD (19.99 USD for Season Pass Episodes 1 to 5)
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
DONTNOD Entertainment, creators of Remember Me, moved from sci-fi dystopian cyberpunk fantasies to teenage high school drama. The first episode introduces you to Max Caulfield, a 18 year old girl who loves photography, and presents her thoughts and feelings throughout the game. Awkward and shy, Max quickly becomes the everyday hero in Life is Strange. The dialogue captures the ever-changing language of teenagers and frames their state of mind with conversations about “selfies” and of being with the in-crowd. The assorted cast of characters featured don’t have a lot to say initially, though it appears there is more than meets the eye with certain characters like Kate, who is bullied by her peers throughout the episode.
Early on in the game, Max is witness to a crime and somehow discovers a way to rewind time. Through this feature, our heroine can rewind time and change the past to affect the future. Oftentimes, Max will not necessarily have the right answer to an initial situation so the rewind button presents a new opportunity to have an upper hand in. Moreso, rewind serves to undo major actions if the outcome isn’t to one’s liking. I have mixed feelings about time traveling in adventure games as the indecision of my dialogue choices led me to redo mines over and over, each time feeling lesser the weight of my decisions. On the other hand, the relative ease in reversing an action gives the player room to breathe and time to thoughtfully consider the next step, much akin to a Pick Your Own Adventure book with the ability to peek at pages ahead.
The interactive story is the main draw of Life is Strange and there are numerous times where Max’s actions lead to consequences. Disappointingly so, we never see any real consequences in the first chapter since after major decision there doesn’t seem to be any resounding gravitas besides a few dialogue changes. I am hopeful that my previous actions will be more impactful in the forthcoming episodes and tie-in with the overarching story. Puzzles themselves are fairly simple and straightforward, with internal monologues that cue you into triggering the proper steps to proceed.
The art direction and style in Life is Strange is top-notch with striking hand-drawn visuals and a warm color palette that permeates throughout. Cutscenes draw inspirations from film more often than not and the music choices mesh along with the setting at hand. I’m already seeing wonderful artistic recreations on Tumblr and its sort of fitting that Life is Strange resonates with that audience in particular. Aside from an constant lip-syncing issue that occasionally breaks the immersion, the voice acting performances capture the linguistics of early adulthood quite well.
At the end of the episode, I’m left with more questions than answers and a uncertain feeling about the characters who are to be trusted or not. Perhaps, that is a good thing as I am already excited to find out what happens next.
The Final Word
A modern adventure game of its own accord, Life is Strange tackles its expository episode and succeeds in developing its own persona amongst its peers.
MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good