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[Video Game Review] Life is Strange (2015)

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Game Summary: Set in a fictional Oregon town of Arcadia Bay senior student Max Caulfield comes back to town after five years to reunite with her former friend Chloe as they attempt to find out what happened to fellow student Rachel Amber, whose disappearance remains unexplained. The pair find themselves exposed to the darker side of Arcadia Bay as they uncover the disturbing truth behind this sudden disappearance. Meanwhile, Max begins to have premonitions as she struggles to understand the implications of an unknown power she discovers -- she can rewind time. While this power may help change painful events and even save lives, Max must learn that changing the past can sometimes lead to a devastating future.

Life Is Strange is a five part episodic game that sets out to revolutionize story based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future. These digitally-delivered, narrative-driven adventure game episodes were created as a collaboration between publisher Square Enix and developer Dontnod.

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher: Square Enix, Feral Interactive (OS X, Linux)

Platforms: Linux, Microsoft Windows, OS X, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Review: by The Superior Spider-Sam

The best there is at what it does….


What I Liked:

The world of interactive stories has definitely caught my interest as of late. I didn’t think there would be much to look for in this genre outside of Telltale, and certainly, nothing that could top “Wolf Among Us” and “Tales From The Borderlands.” However, I can now say that in terms of story, moments, characters, progression, and gameplay “Life Is Strange” from Square Enix is the best interactive story I’ve ever played.

So the story revolves around this girl named Max- who you as the player control. Max has returned to her hometown of Arcadia after years away to finish out her senior year of high school at the Blackwell Academy. You learn that while not considered a total loser, Max isn’t really the most popular student at the school and really only has a handful of friends so mostly she keeps busy with her love of photography; all of this I learned before I hit the 15 minute mark of play which goes to show the level of depth Square put into these characters. Whether it be her inner monologue, interactions with friends, interactions with enemies, or interactions with the environment we get to learn a whole lot about Max and form a connection with her that is not present in a lot of games. I may understand motivations and pray for the survival of many protagonists I’ve controlled such as Lara Croft, Nate Drake, Bigby Wolf, Clementine, and Joel of Last of Us(to name a few) but Max is the first one I feel let me inside her head and heart so I understood fully from where she came. Additionally, her best friend Chloe is a shining example of characters done right. I am not one to really care about the drama high schooler teenagers have, but Chloe is a glaring exception- she is tough as nails, loyal, adventurous, willing to get in trouble just because and actually drives me (as Max) to make decisions I otherwise might not have. Add into the fact that she has a vicious and shady step father with whom she butts heads, and we ourselves a nice side-story to be invested in.

Let’s move onto the gameplay. Going back to Max’s first day at Blackwell in the opening moments of the game she is having a hard time in her photography class having vivid daydreams that cause her to rush to the bathroom to regain her composure. When she gets there she walks in on a student pointing a gun to another student. As Max cries out “No!” the student fires and kills who he was aiming at. Then, suddenly Max is back in photography class hearing the lecture she had just heard earlier…this is when Max realizes she can travel back in time.

This aspect may be why Life Is Strange makes you feel so much more involved in the decisions made; because, throughout the game, you have to choose whether to go back in time and change an event or let the present stay as it- living with either decision for the remainder of the story. People WILL live or die based on how you decide to use this power. I must say throughout each episode there was a moment I thought “No! I need to change that,” and ended up causing someone else great pain. By the third episode, I was seriously scared to make changes in time because of what it might mean. Yes, I could immediately help someone but that could cause a chain reaction I won’t be able to stop in time.

Since most of the game involves decision making on the time travel front, there aren’t as many quick time action moments as seen in the Telltale series of games. I have nothing against quick time myself, but I can appreciate that the game didn’t put throw it at the forefront and instead chose to focus on Max’s decisions. You still do get to interact with the environment and the many enjoyable students at Blackwell as well as others across Arcadia for a fulfilling experience. I cannot emphasize enough how much you actually feel like you are impacting this society. Life Is Strange definitely will have you going through several playthroughs to see how someone you met may have changed based on what decision you made.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’m not a fan of the character designs. This is purely an aesthetic thing and has zero impact on the game or story, but I’ve never really been a fan of the square looking jaw lines on faces.

Also, I will let you know a big point of this game- actually the main point- is to stop a future catastrophe you witnessed, and save a bunch of people….you won’t. This game is suuuuuuuuper sad. Perhaps the biggest “problem” with the game is that you cannot keep playing this wonderful game episode after episode because it gets you so invested that when tragedy strikes, you need to take a break.

You can purchase Life is Strange from Amazon here!

Images Courtesy of IGN

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