Life is Strange ReviewJoslyn Walter
Life is Strange, Episode one
First impression of this game was unusual. Chapter dialogue based gameplay is a trait widely known from the Telltale games recent signature style of, well, everything. Square Enix decided to use the same format, but the graphics are simple and elegant instead of bold and harsh. It just took a while to get accustomed to everything looking like overly polished and hyper lighting play dough visuals.
Right from the beginning, the game drops the player into a weather disaster only to have the player wake up in the middle of a hipster private elite art school during a lecture with the sudden ability to rewind time. My first thought, right after figuring out the rewind time mechanics is that this would be the similar rewind time gameplay mechanics as the game Remember Me. See the initial situation and result, rewind time, and activate a series of events that are similar or completely different given the prior knowledge of the first event.
While this can be an entertaining concept in games, rewinding time gives the player a false sense of being able to correct any mistake, which the game allows to a small fault. However, any story plot regarding time usually ends poorly from the result of poor story writing since anything can change; in other words, the writers of the game being unable to commit to a single chain of events the player selects, but also appealing to players to change their minds if they so desire or don't like a particular outcome.
Before starting the game it's important to know that dialogue is the gameplay for games formatted like this. The game is mostly all talking; trying to get other characters to react in certain ways, most likely in your favor. The game emphasizes choice, and while the player can rewind time, it's pretty clear there will be some decisions that the player will not be able to rewind later on. For now, the game is only pushing for minor commitments.
For the setting of the game however; a high school wannabe layout complete with a nemesis pre-Madonna bully, a nerdy best friend, and over the top dramatically emotional screw up friends, this can be extremely exhausting. For me, I already played the high school game and left it behind without a second thought, but high school never ends. All the characters in the game had the character development and attitudes of twelve year olds, even though most of them are allegedly in college. Max, the protagonist, was all too willing to let people walk all over her and failed in a lot of aspects to stand up for herself successfully; whether it was explaining her actions on the spot or asserting her individuality. Even the weakest character in the game could still walk all over Max, which, while unsurprising, is disappointing, but for the first chapter, character development over the series could have some serious improvements.
Music is pleasant enough. Most everything about the game is all about atmosphere and ambience. Slow, acoustic music for Max and her lonely contemplative moments, metal strings for intense moments and friends who cause a lot of conflict or inner turmoil for Max. Everything about the game says simple picturesque, from birds chirping, to the sound of school hallways, and the sound of wind rushing past car windows. It's clear the developers wanted to target more lonely or singular players who keep themselves slightly distant from society and make the game as relatable to real life as possible and infinitely more inspiring.
The story plot remains vague, but so far, Max with her new found powers is convinced something horrible is going to happen to her small town and she is going to have a large role to play in saving Arcadia. However, her influence over time, especially her consistent use of it around the people she calls friends, is causing some phenomenon's already. It is more likely instead of saving the town; she will be responsible for whatever disasters may befall the town.
Chapter 1 Rating; 6 out of 10
Life is Strange, Episode 2 (Minor Spoilers)
Events became increasingly more intense in numerous different ways after the first chapter of the game. To say things escalated quickly is an understatement.
Discovering her friend Kate got into a lot of trouble by attending the school's new party club, Vortex, Max tries to consolidate Kate and help her work through some emotional distress no thanks to the school self-absorbed bully Victoria. Depending on the player, that either went smoothly or Kate and Max grew even farther apart.
Wanting to get away for a bit so she can work out her own problems, Max confides in her childhood punk rocker rebel friend, Chloe, about her new powers, classic self-proclaimed sidekick Chloe automatically wants to use her best friend to her advantage, most likely from the thought process that Max somehow owes her for never contacting her after she moved from Arcadia. One bad idea after another and several time rewinds later, Chloe not only manages to drag Max down into all of her personal problems and life issues full of danger, Max saves Chloe from certain death all to the thanks of Chloe's angst and anger issues to be taken out on her not a moment later like a typical teenager. Max could use some better friends.
Some awful overkill dramatic moments later, after everything is seeming to go normal for a change, Kate, unable to handle the widespread shame and humiliating jeers from her classmates drags Max down a train wreck of hard feelings that either resolved well, or went very poorly.
Everything was more or less built upon unresolved tension and Max, still letting people push her around to some degree, unable to work out her own issues, like the future disaster of Arcadia, gets pulled off target thanks to the drama of all her friends. Not to mention Max overextended her powers and even more unusual and unexplained phenomenon's happened by the end of the episode, leaving the story plot in disarray.
The personal play through remained for the most part glitch free with one or two hiccups, the game remain aesthetically pleasing in both visual effects and audio. It will be interesting to observe further developments of this game.
Episode 2 rating; 7 out of 10
Overall Game rating 6 out of 10
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.