Life Is Strange Review

*Disclaimer* The reviewer was given review codes by PR. This does not affect his judgement

 

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

-Bringing Story Telling To Another Level-

 

Life Is Strange teaches us two very important facts about life itself:

1. That life is indeed quite strange.

2. Time is truly unforgiving

The journey from the initial pilot episode up until the shocking conclusion does a great job of walking players through an assortment of emotions. These emotions hit closer to home than most other storytelling titles because some of us have lived through similar events. We’ve all gone to high school and had to live through 4 years of drama with friends or bullies–Life Is Strange captures that atmosphere almost to a near perfection. As we get closer to wrapping up 2015, Life Is Strange currently stands tall among other influential video game releases for perfectly good reasons.

When I reviewed the pilot episode at the beginning of the year, I concluded my review by saying how I hoped Life Is Strange wouldn’t rely on the illusion of choice to hold onto people’s interest. Now with the finale wrapped up, I can safely say illusion of choice is not a worry to be had here. Each choice the player needs to make or doesn’t make directly changes how the rest of the game unfolds. While the game only has two endings for players to choose from, it’s the in-between moments for which the choices truly stand out.

After each episode, a list of choices show the percentages of what players around the world chose. Life Is Strange has surprising depth for linear story-based game considering all the different actions that can be performed. I’ve actually had moments where I would look at the list realized I missed specific moments somehow, even though I felt confident about exploring the environments thoroughly. After getting used to games such as The Walking Dead, where only a few choices were offered per episode, it’s refreshing to have a game present multiple decision making moments. It goes without saying but this game has a decent amount of replay value attached for players; finding reasons to return to Arcadia Bay shouldn’t be a problem.

I still found the rewind mechanic to be a helping hand when dealing with tough decisions. Unlike other games where a choice is made and players learns to live with said choice, Max’s ability to rewind time adds a whole other level of tension.

At first glance, having free range to manipulate time might sounds as if the whole decision process is easier but don’t be fooled; twisting time only further deepens players’ judgement of themselves. After seeing either outcome for a particular fork in the road, I had to ultimately make the call as to which path I would walk down. This second chance, so to speak, caused me to rethink my logic or abandon it altogether. Emotions run wild throughout the episodes and being left with the knowledge that I potentially made the wrong choice, despite having rewind powers, hits closer to home than I initially thought possible.

The main character herself, Maxine “Super Max” Caulfield, turned out to be such a likable character. Starting out as your typical shy, introverted teenager, Max begins to blossom throughout the story from the player’s actions. The Dontnod staff did an incredible job with having Max be easily related to by various players. I myself, had moments where past memories would suddenly appear in my head as I guided Max through a familiar circumstance. Max is just one piece within the game’s well-rounded cast of likable or hated characters and the interactions between each of them truly brings the story together.

The dynamic duo that is Max and Chloe shall go down as one of my favorite pairings in video game history. The chemistry and flux between both characters equally explains how best friend relationships tend to play out. These girls couldn’t be any more different yet, they stand by each other despite all those differences. At times, I would dislike Chloe for being so stubborn but would quickly rebound when she explained how much Max meant to her. Life Is Strange relies on this colorful cast of characters to keep people coming back, which I believe turned out to be quite the success.

Honestly, when I first played Life Is Strange back in February, I had no idea what route this game would possibly take. Like any good show, players are given more than one plot point to focus on. As the story unfolds, twists and turns naturally occur and of course, time traveling repercussions start to manifest as well. The finale does a superb job of tying off loose ends while delving deep into the time travel aspect.

At one point during the finale, I became confused with all the alternate realities being created as a result of the fabric of time itself being affected. I really enjoyed the heavy warping of time because it completely aligns with what Life Is Strange conveys: Time is a fickle mistress… one that is not to be toyed with.

I came away from Life Is Strange quite impressed with only minor issues withstanding. Though the story and characters are well done, there are moments where the dialogue is a bit TOO cheesy. Use of words like “hella” or spelling “rocks” as “rawks” took me out of the experience for awhile. I get that the Dontnod team went for a teenage focused viewpoint but I think I was mostly embarrassed that I used to find these sayings “cool”. Also, watching the lips of characters speak doesn’t always match with what they are saying. A better job with the lip-syncing could have been accomplished but my gripe at this point is stretching.

Pros:

+ Compelling Story

+ Strong Cast of Characters

+ Musical Score Blends Well

+ Rewind Feature

+ Steady Character Development

 

Cons:

Cheesy Dialogue At Times

Lip-Syncing Issues

 

From start to finish, Life Is Strange kept my attention through it all, which shows the sign of a competent storytelling experience. Fortunately, Max’s adventure through life and time is more than competent, it’s compelling. The game pulls at heartstrings, jogs potential long forgotten memories, even embraces death during a time with teenagers believe themselves immortal. With all the supernatural elements surrounding Max, the game somehow keeps reality at the forefront of it all. Life Is Strange is an experience I feels as though everyone should have at least once. Games like these don’t come around often, so it’s best to appreciate them in the short bursts they arrive in.

 

 

Recommend?

Can’t Recommend Enough!

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About the Author

Marcus Lawrence

"They call me "The Man Who Games" but really, my name is Marcus Lawrence and I've been in the freelance field for about 3+ years now. Game reviews, game industry news, opinion pieces and more are under my belt; I strive to gain even more knowledge than the previous day. Ever since I was a kid, I loved gaming and all sorts of other nerdy activities. It was when I saw Adam Sessler on Extended Play years ago, that I knew my calling was the gaming industry. Find me @G33K_Marcus and let's G33k out!

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