Author Topic: Life is Strange – January 2015 [Score: 9.1]  (Read 7 times)

Offline bobdog

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Life is Strange – January 2015 [Score: 9.1]
« on: Yesterday at 06:05:19 PM »
Life is Strange is not a perfect game, but the overall feeling it delivers is extremely powerful – enough to get past any imperfections. Split into five episodes, this game will break your heart. It will have you regret every decision you make along the way. And it will pull you in, making you both hesitant and clamoring to play the next episode to see what comes next.

Life is Strange follows teenager Max Caulfield, who left Arcadia Bay five years ago to live in Seattle with her parents. Now she’s back at the prestigious Blackwell Academy to focus on her photography skills. But she also has to reconcile with the past she left behind, including her best friend Chloe Price.

We immediately leap into the action as Max finds herself in a nightmare scenario – wind whipping around as she attempts to climb a cliffside trail to a lighthouse that overlooks Arcadia Bay. When she arrives to the top, she sees a massive tornado bearing down on the seaside town. And then she awakes back in her classroom.

From here, it seems pretty mundane, like she just had a bad nightmare. She finishes up class, tools around in the hallway, and heads to the bathroom. While there, she sees a butterfly alight in the back corner, so she takes a photograph. While hidden in the back, a boy and girl come into the bathroom, start arguing, and the boy pulls a gun on the blue-haired girl, shooting her in the stomach.

That’s when Max’s world changes forever. She reaches out and (magically?) rewinds time to before the boy shoots the girl. With a little more effort, she goes back even further until she’s sitting in her classroom again. The same conversations and actions ensue, so Max comes to the realization that she somehow turned back time. With a couple of tests, she verifies that she has this mysterious new power, and that maybe she can even stop the shooting if she gets ahead of it.

The rewind power is what makes Life is Strange so unique. You can usually play down several down different timelines, see what you like best, and choose that route, understanding that your final decisions may have extremely serious consequences. Max also realizes that if she gathers items in the “future”, she’ll still have them if she rewinds to the past.

As we close out Episode 1, we reconnect with the blue-haired girl, who turns out to be Max’s best friend Chloe from so long ago. The reconciliation is not without its bumps, though. After Chloe’s father died in a car wreck, Max moved away, Chloe’s mom Joyce remarried, and Chloe’s other best friend Rachel Adams mysteriously disappeared 6 months prior. Chloe feels beset with loss and betrayal, and she is angry, intense and obsessive.

[Sidenote: as a father of a 19-year-old girl, I can relate to what the students in this game have to go through in today’s world.]

Chloe is excited though about Max’s new “superpower” and sets about trying to test it in a variety of ways. These are fun because you have to replay the game until you get the sequence of events right. And Chloe thinks that maybe they can find out what’s really going on in Arcadia Bay.

Future episodes up the ante significantly, with Max straining her new power to try and save a friend. She also reaches into the past to change a significant event in she and Chloe’s life. But, if you’ve ever seen The Butterfly Effect, you understand that one small change in the past can massively change the present. The mystery into what happened to Rachel Adams rachets up in the penultimate episode, with a heartbreaking finale.

We head into the final episode with Max in a very bad place both physically and mentally. However, she attempts one more time to head into the past and salvage her present. This is a glorious situation, when you finally get everything to work out just right. And then … well, to say more would ruin the surprise. But just know that if you’ve truly invested in Max’s story, you’ll get whiplash multiple times, and you will finally have to make the most important decision possible, with no backtracking this time.

As I said, the series is not perfect. My biggest complaint lies in how challenging it is to interact with objects. On the screen, people and objects that you can touch, speak with or otherwise take some action are highlighted. However, when you go to click on them (you have to hold down one button, and then mouse in one of the cardinal directions until the prescribed action takes place), the text indicating the action is often obscured by your character model. For example, if you approach an apple and look at it, the words for whatever action you want to take will be located behind your right arm. If you swivel around just right, you might be able to decipher the words, but probably not. I don’t know if this was exclusive to mouse and keyboard, but it was very annoying.

Most of the characters have great voice actors, the graphics are atmospheric and descriptive without requiring a lot of horsepower, and the story was interesting and unique, although parts of the last episode could possibly have been trimmed. The antagonist isn’t revealed until the end, which is nice, although they then became a little cartoonish.

Another fun element was taking photos (Max is trying to become a photographer, after all). You are given a scrapbook and have to figure out exactly what the book is showing you. Sometimes, you’ll automatically come across the photo opportunity, and other times, you’ll have to seek them out, or cause multiple things to happen before the opportunity presents itself.

Overall, I was very moved by Max and Chloe’s story. I wanted to see them gain some happiness, and I would try out many different variables to get what I thought might be the better (there is no “best” in this game) option. I had to deal with a potential suicide due to online bullying. I had to solve a six-month-old mystery and narrow down the suspects. And I finally had to make a huge decision that in real life I would almost never make. And now, I need a little time to decompress and pull myself back together. 9.1 out of 10