Life Is Strange (Episodes 1 – 3) – PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: January 29, 2015
Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10
We’re all aware of how much video games have changed over the past couple of decades. They’ve evolved from clusters of pixels to full-fledged cinematic experiences. Some are like movies where the decisions and fate of the main characters becomes the responsibility of the viewer. One recent game to take advantage of the complex story-telling and decision-making genre is DONTNOD’s Life Is Strange.
The game begins with our main protagonist, Maxine Caulfield, or just Max, having a horrific vision of her hometown, Arcadia Bay, being ripped apart by a staggeringly huge tornado.
The tornado launches a boat into a nearby lighthouse, which lands on Max, jumping her into waking up in the middle of her photography class. Max is a student at Blackwell Academy, which is a privileged private school dedicated to high school seniors with outstanding gifts of creativity, science, etc. Max has recently been accepted into the academy. Already considered the social outcast who keeps to herself and takes pictures with her retro Polaroid camera, Max is consistently personally victimized by another student named Victoria Chase, which is illustrated very promptly in the first ten minutes of the game. After the class lecture is over, Max heads over to the bathroom to “splash cold water on her face and not look like a total loser.”
In the bathroom, Max notices with awe that a glowing blue butterfly has drifted in. Not wanting to miss out on a photo opportunity, Max grabs her camera and snaps a quick one. At that moment, another student named Nathan Prescott walks in, blabbering madly to himself, so Max stays hidden in the stalls. Another girl also enters the bathroom, and the two argue violently until Nathan shoots and kills the other girl. Upon seeing this tragedy, Max screams and reaches out her hand. Everything stops, Max blacks out, and all of a sudden she’s back in class, listening to the same lecture from earlier.
Max has just discovered that she can rewind time.
Life Is Strange has taken on a great challenge: The superhero story. And so far, you can color me very impressed. Most superhero teenagers are wise-cracking smart asses, but Max is very subdued and likable. She can be a tad bit
angsty at times, but that Comes with being a realistic teenage character. She still grows on you to the point where you want to see her be successful and make good decisions. In fact, all of the characters have very strong personalities that grow from being high school stereotypes to actual relate-able and memorable characters. For example, Chloe, Max’s childhood friend and a teenage rebel, has an opinion about everything and everyone. It’s easy to remember her dialogue because everything she says is just so damn and enjoyably witty. There’s also a lot of intimate details about Max’s back story and the environment she’s currently in. The atmosphere is abundant and true to some real-life situations, like all of the high school drama that takes place.
Life Is Strange contains the standard point-and-click type gameplay, though I’ll admit the style threw me off at first. You have to click and drag the mouse and let go on the action you want to execute. The mechanic was a little off-putting at first, but it’s easy to get used to. The time mechanic is a lot of fun. Holding down the right mouse button will make Max rewind time so you can go back and change something that was said or done. I was thinking that maybe Life Is Strange would be like Mass Effect in the decision-making aspect, but it’s not because you have the ability to rewind as many times as you wish (albeit you stay in the same area. Once you leave the area you can’t change anything back) until you feel confident with your final answer.
You can also rewind faster by holding down the shift key or just undo your last action by hitting the control key, which is convenient because the excessive time traveling does become tiresome after awhile. There’s also a “journal” feature which allows you to access Max’s personal diary where she has explicitly written everything that has happened so far, along with locations, characters, episodes, and text messaging.
Life Is Strange has given a great impression thus far. It’s very story-driven and complex, and it’s absolutely irresistible to get strung into. I’m hoping that this episodic adventure will end as strongly as it started.
Release Date: March 24, 2015
Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10
As I had hoped, Life Is Strange continues to hold a strong grip on my heart. With every minute of gameplay, the story becomes even more complex and realized.
Max has become more adjusted to the fact that she has obtained a power and the only person who knows about it is her best friend, Chloe Price. The two decide to meet up and talk about Max’s powers more in-depth, while re-kindling their childhood friendship that had been up in the air for the previous five years. Max also has to deal with consoling her other friend, Kate Marsh, who is experiencing an abundance of cruel bullying led by Victoria Chase due to an unfavorable video portrayal of Kate that went viral. Not to mention that Chloe’s close friend, Rachel Amber, has been missing for months and Max has a gut feeling that all of these events are connected somehow. Max finds herself in an internal battle between focusing on Kate’s issues and Chloe’s jealousy and impatient mannerisms.
This episode is very intense and dramatic, requring you to observe every little detail about Max’s environment that will be useful to her later on. Abandoning your curiousity about the surrounding rooms and people can very intensely effect important events.
Max begins to learn that there are heavy consequences to the over-use of time manipulation, as she keeps having the same horrific tornado vision, along with migraines and nosebleeds. These consequences come full circle when she temporarily cannot use her powers at all.
What I’ve really come to appreciate about this game is the writing. Time was taken to surround Max in an uber-realistic Pacific Northwest environment, characters with full-fledged personalities, and natural flowing dialouge with impeccable voice acting. There’s also great symbolism. For example, the game takes place in autumn. Everything is changing from the temperature, the length of days, to the color of the leaves, just like Max’s life is changing, but we don’t know yet if it’s for better or for worse.
Another thing that I neglected to mention when talking about the first episode is the soundtrack. The music for Life Is Strange is superb. I noticed when I first started up the game a very soothing guitar theme that instantly grabbed my attention. The original compositions are stellar, but there is also licensed music from established artists sprinkled thought the game that is primarily comprised of the indie folk genre. I usually despise any sort of pretentious indie music, but the songs used here are great and perfectly fitting for the style and tone of this game.
My only complaints (you’re probably surprised that I have any considering I’ve spent most of the review just praising the game) are the fact hat the dialogue doesn’t always quite match the lip movements and sometimes the faces look pretty damn weird. But I can’t really call them complaints, but just minor inconveniences since I’m more focused on the story aspect of the game and character development.
What Life Is Strange has accomplished is conveying the simple, yet profound presence of the human life and how our decisions and behavior will effect others. It has a very thought-provoking premise, and even made me reflective on what I would do if I had Max’s power. What part of my life would I do over if I could rewind time? That’s the mark of a great story when it has inspired you to analyze your own life and make personal connections to the characters and atmosphere.
“Out of Time,” has definitely upped the ante since its previous episode and has my full attention until this series ends.
Release Date: May 19, 2015
Nerd Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Life Is Strange is at a very pivotal point in its plot right now, and I can honestly say that I was not expecting it to tug so viciously at my heart strings like this. Without giving too much away, the story of Max Caulfield becomes much more bleaker as she delves deeper into the dire consequences of time manipulation, and questions whether her power is a gift or a curse. There’s still so much abut her power that is unexplained and this episode left me screaming internally, wanting to find out what happens next. Even though the story is paced very slowly, it feels like there is so much happening, which just shows the exceptional level of thought and planning that went into this game.
This episode starts out innocent enough, with Max and Chloe having a “girls’ night out,” breaking into Blackwell Academy and taking a dip in the pool. However, their fun turns into fear of getting caught when Chloe’s step-father (or step-douche, as Chloe affectionately calls him), who happens to be the head of security at Blackwell, starts to hunt them down. In a panic, Max and Chloe decide that their best option is to hide and then slip past him. This part of the game forces you to start fine-tuning your time rewind power in order to effectively escape. It’s suspenseful and scary and really serves as a great example of Max and Chloe’s timeless bond and their teamwork ethic. You really believe the validity of their years long friendship and their capacity to forgive one another for past mistakes. It’s this relationship and a certain momentum from Max’s past that causes her to explore alternate branches of her power.
Other than that, there’s not really anything added to the point-and-click style, as the game is more of a narrative experience that relies on player choice. However, I did stumble upon a hilarious glitch; there’s a plot point where Max must decide to side with Chloe in an arguement or side with her paranoid step-dad, David. If you rewind time and make the opposite decision, all three other characters will stand in place. They’re still able to talk to you, but they don’t blink or move their lips. They just stand still as if they are robots that are performing a system restart. I don’t know yet if everyone has experienced the same glitch, but it happened to me a multitude of times. It’s not exactly a game-breaking glitch either, thankfully, but you will have no choice but to re-load from the last checkpoint should you encounter it.
This is a very intense half-way point for this series, and I just love the fact that no matter how many times you rewind and make a different decision, you can never be completely sure that it’s the right answer. It’s very easy to tell that Life Is Strange will also have a very considerable replay value, in regards to how much the choices have affected the outcomes so far. Aside from the glitch and the occasionally weird lip-syncing, Life Is Strange is a damn near perfect game and I’ll be waiting patiently (and impatiently) for the next six weeks until episode four.
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