Life is Strange.
You’re an awkward 18-year-old girl who just got accepted into a private seniors (not citizens) school. Sold on it yet? You’re a photography student whose teacher is a famous photographer! Still not sold? What about being able to rewind time?! Thought that may help. Come on, who doesn’t want to have rewind powers in high school to teach bullies a lesson!
When I first heard about and saw this game, I was looking forward to playing it. I am a big fan of these heavily story focused choice games. However, the premise was just “you’re Max, an 18 year old girl getting through high school” when I first read about it. No idea about the time rewinding. I was hesitant. What got me to buy the game, and I hope more companies who do episodic games do this, was you can buy episode 1 and then 2-5 in a bundle instead of having to rebuy the whole thing.
The screen shots of the game got me looking forward to it, but when you start to play you know you’re in for a treat. The style was pretty; the lighting was beautiful. Definitely more than what you’d expect from a $20 episodic game. Sometimes the movement was a bit off for the characters. The lip syncing? Just wow. It isn’t always bad but it is noticeable when it isn’t good. There was even a part in the final chapter where Max was in a conversation with someone and her mouth didn’t even move for some of those parts. Telepath powers, too?
Playing through the first episode was a bit of a roller coaster. Cool intro, mediocre following, then BOOM! Powers. I didn’t know about the powers when starting so this was a HUGE and very welcome surprise. Max is now about to rewind time for a short amount of… um… time. She can’t rewind back for a day, only a few minutes. That’s when you know this choice based game is going to be great. Those parts and using her power were definitely the upside of the roller coaster. The downside? The dialogue. No matter how great a person thinks this game is, I believe everyone who played can agree that the dialogue was laughable at times.
The Rest of the Game
It took me almost a year to play the rest of the game, which was episode 2 – 5. After the first episode, I liked it, but not enough to keep going. Reviews wouldn’t help because everyone played the same as I did. I decided to wait for the rest of the game to be released before buying. Even then it took a few months to pick it up. Boy was I glad I did.
The rewind power gives the game more depth and options than you’d think. We’ve all had a conversation with someone in a game and said “ugh, shoulda chose the other option”. This game allows you to do that AND use things you’ve learned in the other conversation to maybe add new conversation options. “Oh man, if I knew he had a dog, I’d have chosen this!” Then you rewind time and mention his dog, or truck, or whatever else to help you get what you need out of people.
New conversation options isn’t the only thing the rewind time does. It helps you do a kind of “teleport”. When you rewind time, you rewind everything and everyone else. Not yourself or items you picked up. Example, there is a part where you need keys. You go get the keys and rewind time to before you walked inside. Now you are where ever you are when you rewound time and you have the keys. Everything else changed. Not you. Obviously there are puzzles and events that require you to use this and it really makes the game fun and cool.
Knowing what your power does more now, does it sound like a similar power from another game? Probably not because few people played Remember Me. In Remember Me you can do a “memory remix” on people that allows you to go in their mind to an event and change how they remembered it. They guys that brought you this game helped with Remember Me and, thankfully, did a much better job delivering this time around.
So back to the game….
Episode One was good, but wasn’t great. It showed a lot of promise and you had to go on faith, or peer pressure, to continue with the game. Unfortunately, that isn’t the chapter you’ll have to power through. That’s chapter 2. Well, not the whole chapter. Just the junk yard part. I promise you, this will be the worst part of the game. Ask anyone who has played this. It is one of the worst fetch quests ever made. And this is from someone who played World of Warcraft for over 5 years. Thankfully after that, game gets nothing but better. I don’t know how it could get any worse than that.
From after that part of episode 2, that is where the game really shines on. You still keep going forward with your search for what happened to Rachel Amber while dealing with the social issues at school. The game really makes you feel what it’s like to be Max and the pressure she is feeling. Even through you can rewind time and remake choices, you still give each option a good amount of thought.
After starting episode 3, you may have a hard time putting the game down as the story picks up and some intense events happen closer together. Not to mention the cliffhangers of episode 3 and 4 that may make you at least start the next episode before taking a break. The game doesn’t let up on you. It doesn’t give you easy choices most of the time and keeps hitting you harder and harder right up until the end. Yeah… the end.
Like other choice based games, you’ll get a list of choices you made and how the rest of the player base, or just your friends, reacted and what they did. “How did 39% of the players do this?” or “Seriously what jerk was it that caused this option to have 1%?!?” Even if you don’t go back to replay the game and make different choices, you’ll want to go online and watch videos or read what other people did.
Remember the end of the first Assassins Creed where you’re in that room and that thing with the Eagle Vision happens? Remember how after The Walking Dead you needed to go online and see what else could have happened if you just did that thing differently? That’s the feeling you get with Life is Strange.
Not only that, but it’s a game where after you’ve played it you can have a really good discussion with other friends who played it as well. Not just a “why did you do A instead of B?”, but the social issues that are presented in the game. The creators felt that some of the subject matter in the game was enough to have them include a page of crisis center numbers and sites for different countries where the game was released. After playing this game and how the topic matter and choices effected myself, I can’t even imagine what it’s like for someone playing the game who is going through the same things as Max, Chloe or some of the other people at the school.
With some heart wrenching moments and gut wrenching dialogue, Life is Strange is a game that has its ups and downs and can kick you right in the feels. The game has its technical issues, but nothing that happened to me playing effected my gameplay of it. The only problems I really had were lip syncing issues. Nothing where my character got stuck or caused me to reset the game.
Life is Strange didn’t get me as emotional as The Last of Us did, but when it comes to independent games, I think it beat out Gone Home.
Great and Emotional Story
Connected you with the characters on a personal and emotional level
Rewind Time feature really enhanced gameplay
Beautiful lighting and graphics
Takes an episode or two to ramp up
Super Poor Lip Syncing at times
Some Horrible Dialogue
Stupid Junkyard Fetch Quest