LIFE IS STRANGE – PC
EPISODES 1 – 2
PC games are something of a hobby of mine and I’ve played them as far back as I can remember. Nothing more fun than jumping into a new universe and solving mysteries, puzzles and interacting with extravagant characters. Point and click is my thing, heck, DOS games are my style. Recently I have ventured out of my norm and am experiencing new worlds. For the most part it’s been a fun ride.
Last week I started and finished both released chapters by Dontnod Entertainment‘s, Life is Strange. The third person game revolves around Max Caulfield, a uncertain and awkward 18-year-old returning to her home town of Arcadia Bay for a photography class taught by a former famed photographer, Mr. Jefferson. It begins on Max’s first day at Blackwell Academy, which she points out hasn’t notably changed over her five year leave. It’s an average first day at school until Max has a spell in class and realizes she possesses the power to reverse time. This happens at the precise moment when she has the opportunity to save the life of her ill-fated friend, Chloe Price. The game went pretty fast for me. Other than introducing the characters nothing major happens yet. Yes, Max is able to turn back time to save Chloe but, after the first ten minutes it’s a lot of drama queen nonsense as for episode one and two. Max does take note in missing persons Rachel Amber and takes it upon herself to inquire to friends and factuality about what may have happened and who could be behind her disappearance. This will hopefully play out well like a good who-dun-it. We’ll have to wait for later episodes to see what happened to Rachel and how Max is connected to the upcoming tornado.
For Max, living the dorm life was acceptable enough, although she would rather not have to maneuver between the Jocks, the Pot Head, the Geeks and the élite crowd known as the Vortex Club.
And, the ever bad, Chloe, whom she seems to both admire and question the reasoning of her often negative actions.
A best friend to Max, left behind years earlier and someone she didn’t contact when she returned, Chloe is a strong female lead with anger issues and, insecurities of being abandoned. She feels like every one in life has left her and there is lots of evidence in the game that she took Max moving away very badly. Chloe’s step-father is a military man and it seems a part of the bigger plot. Five bucks says Chloe turns out to be part of the anonymous bad on campus and her step father will be an ally.
Life is Strange is a game riddled with heavy metaphors. A doe that appears not only in dreams but at opportune times, butterflies which seem to hang around clues or obstacles that must be completed and, a tornado that is seemingly the biggest threat headed to Max and all of Arcadia.
I assume the most intense moments of the five part series will take place closer to the time the tornado hits. It’s to early to hypothesize what the doe, butterflies and tornado are symbols of but I’m sure it will all become clear as the Life is Strange game comes to a close.
Between obstacles like going from room to room looking for a memory stick or figuring out how to outsmart the Vortex Club and get inside her dorm (don’t get me started on searching for bottles), Life is Strange is a slow burn. Though, through these drawn out chores there are a number clues all around that help deepen the plot. The character build up is well done using this strategy. Tthere are a lot of opportunities to learn about Max’s past living in Arcadia, as for anything truly intense, maybe they are waiting for the later episodes…
Striving for what Telltale Games has made an art of, in Life is Strange you are able to make choices for Max which will affect the game play later on through the opportunities to turn back time and change actions or behaviors. Basically, you feel like you are in control of the outcome of the game.
For me, I like this. Will often play twice, how I would normally choose (generally pretty nice person) and then the total opposite of my choices. Yes, I get game guilt, like when I didn’t feed the stray cat in Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka but, sometimes it’s nice play the bad guy.
The navigation is relatively easy, the main problem with it would be that the POV doesn’t always follow along with Max turning around and has made me a little crazy, Life is Strange is oddly addicting. A bonus to the game are the graphics. They’re excellent and at times, beautiful and serene. The look of time-jumping was spot on though hard to watch. Happy there is a key to speed up the function, but have noticed a few times there have been bugs where I went further back than intended.
As a horror fan it was fun to see nods to The Shining and Twin Peaks. These help to solidify the Life is Strange universe. Having characters that are fans of the same things I am got me hooked, even though this was done quite subtly, I can’t wait to see similar discoveries in upcoming episodes. The score was another treat that kept in line with the feelings of the game. Something for everyone.
Overall, it’s an enjoyable game getting to explore a number of settings, the characters were all pretty solid and it is fun to see different consequences to what you choose to do before setting actions in stone. Odds are I will finish the series, though I hope for more action and obstacles that further the story line and not just have me hunting for Easter Eggs (and bottles).