Review: Life is Strange!
30th October 2015
If you follow me on social media you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been raving about Life is Strange for most of the year. Dontnod Entertainment managed to do something that I haven’t experienced before: an episodic game that kept me on the edge of my seat waiting for every single episode release. I don’t know about you but I always find my interest wanes a little between episodes – especially when they’re a month or more apart – but Life is Strange had me raving about possibilities and interpretations every chance I got.
Life is Strange is the story of Max Caulfield, a photography student with a penchant for Polaroid cameras and taking selfies – she witnesses the murder of the blue haired Chloe Price and discovers that she can manipulate time. Whilst it certainly starts out with a definite twee hipster atmosphere with sometimes cringe worthy dialogue, it very quickly picks up steam with an amazingly complex cast of characters, and a rabbit hole of consequences.
You may remember Dontnods previous title “Remember Me” and Life is Stranges’ rewind time mechanic is very similar to the memory editing from that game. It’s difficult not to compare the two, and I think that whilst Life is Strange is not as polished in terms of graphics, smooth animation, etc. at times it more than makes up for it with a much stronger narrative and a cast that is integral to that rather than stand ins to prop up the protagonist.
The beauty of Life is Strange is that there is so much depth to the characters and setting – and it’s up to you how deep you go into that. The story itself is a wonderful depiction of relationships, how they intertwine, and all of this is expressed in a unique and interesting way. It’s certainly possible to take everything on face value as you progress through the game but we learn far more through exploration – not just of the setting, or even Max’s rewind ability – but through her diary entries and text messages which are an integral part of the menu system. It’s worth mentioning at this point that Max herself is a very unreliable narrator, like us she has limited knowledge of what’s going on around her, and it’s clear that her views about people aren’t always the full picture. She clearly has a blind spot when it comes to Chloes’ behaviour at times, although we do see her views of certain characters evolve as we learn more.
With this level of detail it’s easy to get attached to characters, and even some secondary cast become people that you want to be sure are safe – and with each decision you make you are reminded that “this action will have consequences”. Choice based games have came a long way, and Life is Strange is far removed from the likes of Star Wars: The Old Republic – a brilliant game in it’s own right – where choices were very black and white. Life is Strange strikes that perfect balance of making players second guess their decisions and I’m sure that alone will add to replayability.
For me, this has got to be my favourite game of the year and has definitely made me rethink my usual wariness of episodic titles. Not only was the game, it’s narrative, and characters engaging – but it managed to make me genuinely intrigued and scared for those characters between episodes. Not only that but even though it happened months ago I still feel a little bit guilty that I over watered Max’s plant – I’m sorry you died Lisa, it was all my fault.
I truly enjoyed Life is Strange and I really look forward to what Dontnod produce next. Whilst the game is definitely a favourite and I recommend it to anyone who loves narrative games with a few geeky easter eggs – there are elements of the game that could do with a little polishing. Generally those are very minor things like lip sync – which doesn’t impact the game much and I know that the developers made it clear that they’d rather focus on getting episodes and the narrative etc. perfect rather than worry about it but it’d be a nice final addition to round out an otherwise brilliant gaming experience.
Check out Life is Strange for yourself at you preferred retailer below!