Game Scores: Steam 10/10, GameSpot 8/10, Microsoft 4.7/5, Nerdvana.tv 4.5/5
Follow protagonist Max Caulfield, photography student with the ability to rewind time in this 3rd person graphic adventure. Life is Strange is a captivating, beautiful and dark emotional ride that takes place over five episodes.
Life is Strange is set in a small, quiet fictional town called Arcadia Bay, somewhere along the coast line of Oregon. A big storm with the ferocity to destroy the town is coming and Max, with her time shifting ability contrives to stop it from happening. Each choice she makes effects the narrative, which she can alter by rewinding time and making a different choice. However the more choices Max makes and the more she tries to make things right, the more complicated things become.
At the core of the story is the relationship between Max and her childhood friend Chloe. The two bond together again when Max returns to Arcadia Bay after moving away with her parents for a few years. Chloe is the dark half of this relationship at least superficially so, you can’t help but sense an underlying fragility behind the tough talk. Max is the more sensible shy, nerdy one. Chloe is all punk rock chic with dyed blue hair (influenced by the character Pris from Blade Runner). She’s emotionally scarred from the death of her father and now lives with her abusive step dad, covering up the pain with a tough do or die attitude. The relationship between Max and Chloe is a well-crafted insight into a strong female friendship. What makes this game different is that it actually passes the Bechtel test.
The game goes to some dark places covering topics like suicide, teen pregnancy and drug use. The content is at times discomforting and the central mystery that Max and Chloe set out to resolve turns out to be deeply disturbing and creepy. The two encounter and interact with an engaging, diverse cast of characters, not all of who are nice and at times Max and Chloe must work with them to achieve their goals. This makes for some unpleasant interactions but it’s raw and honest. Having to work with people that we don’t like gives the game a true to life depth.
The game has many pluses. The indie music and sound effects are perfect in establishing place and mood throughout the game. The voice acting is convincing and adds real depth and authenticity to the characters. The visuals are gorgeous. The dialogue provides the comedy, tragedy and charm of the game. The quick witted banter, pop culture references and drama between the characters is entertaining and engaging.
The choices are not always easy for Max, often leaving her between a rock and a hard place. You will have to choose for Max between the lesser of two marginally differentiated evils. She is often left in an unenviable position making a decision that will have an ultimate cost or loss for someone. Even for the most cynical gamer, its morally challenging as you decide who gets left under the bus.
The mechanics of the game are straight forward and similar to Tell Tale games such as The Walking Dead. There is a lot of snooping in the game as you search through belongings of various characters. The clues are revealed by interacting with different objects. Max has a camera, a mobile and journal. Each time she takes a photo it’s added to her journal where you can get the low down on characters and events as they unfold.
Combining the visuals, soundtrack, its well-developed characters and difficult moral choices, Life is Strange is a gripping emotional roller coaster ride.
Life is Strange is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Linux. For the month of June 2017 its available for free download on Playstation Plus members.