Life Is Strange manages to nail the emotion and narrative punch the game is trying to achieve, and despite a few issues holding it back, it is a decent game that’s well worth a play.
With a myriad of narrative-driven games following the success of Heavy Rain, it’s refreshing to see such a unique take on the concept with Life Is Strange. This 5-episode adventure follows the story of Max Caulfield and her troubled friend Chloe as they investigate the disappearance of a fellow student at their school. The hand-drawn art style and interesting reversing time mechanics help to elevate Life Is Strange above others in this genre with a well-paced, emotional story at its heart. Although the game does suffer from a bit of fatigue with unnecessary padding late on and some awkward sections that don’t fit with the story, Life Is Strange still manages to impress.
Set in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay, the story follows senior student Max who returns to the town after a 5-year absence and finds herself reunited with childhood friend Chloe. Together, they investigate the disappearance of student Rachel Amber, and try to find out exactly what happened to her. The story itself does do a pretty good job of building the relationship between Max and Chloe, whom the plot revolves around. The slow pace the game adopts for vast periods of the play time helps to deepen the character relationships too, and on the whole, it definitely achieves this.
Along with likeable, believably-written characters, the game world is full of interesting settings too. The bright colours and unique art style really complement Max’s quirky personality and although the areas themselves are linear and relatively small in their design, there’s enough side content packed into these areas to still make it enjoyable to traverse through them. The weight of the choices given at key moments of the emotionally-charged narrative are surprisingly powerful as well, although the final choice of the game boils down to a singular binary choice akin to that of Mass Effect 3, which is a bit of a shame. Despite this, the story is decent enough that you can forgive the ending given how good the rest of the game is.
Gameplay wise, Life Is Strange plays out much the same way as others in this genre. Lengthy cutscenes with some quick time events prompting a specific button press are broken up by slightly longer playable sections set in the game world. It’s here that the third-person perspective takes full advantage of Life Is Strange’s unique gameplay mechanic – rewinding time. After an accident occurs that grants Max these powers, the ability to rewind time at key moments of the story does make for some interesting and oftentimes clever developments to occur. In doing this, it is a bit of a double edged sword at times, as it negates some of the tension during key choices, knowing you could theoretically just rewind time again. Life Is Strange does do a good job of showing the consequences of these actions though with a few well-placed surprises through the adventure.
Ultimately, Life Is Strange is all about the story. There’re some interesting themes around loss, regret and choice explored in meticulous detail throughout the 5-episode adventure, and although some of the design choices are a little questionable, Life Is Strange does a good job of telling a cohesive story throughout its runtime. An out of place stealth section and awkward gun shooting do feel tacked on and take away from what’s otherwise a tightly woven narrative, but it’s at least commendable that the developers have attempted to try and break the repetitiveness up a little, even if it doesn’t always work. Life Is Strange still manages to nail the emotion and narrative punch the game is trying to achieve though, and despite a few issues holding it back, Life Is Strange is a decent game that’s well worth a play.