Smells Like Teen Spirit

Life is Strange Title

Giant tornadoes, solar eclipses, double moons and off the hook teenage parties!!

What more could you ask from a story plotline?  I dunno, maybe a murder mystery and an adorable nerdy love interest?

Life Is Strange is an episodic “choose your path” adventure game that brings all this and more to the table. I first heard about Life is Strange when it was still in development and even though it was being published by Square Enix it didn’t really spark much interest in me.

Life is Strange Screen 1

I mean Telltale had its own slew of graphic adventure games available at the time. They had games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, which are full of action and intrigue and brightly colored cell-shaded awesomeness. All that Dontnod’s Life Is Strange was offering seemed like stiffly animated tumultuous teenage drama. Meh….

So for two years it lay forgotten in digital-game-store land until a few months ago when it was included in the PlayStation Plus monthly game line-up. So I figured what the hay? Its free after all.

And then it sat some more on my PlayStation, mocking me every day, until my wife and I decided to give it a go. We just finished The Wolf Among Us and we were still longing to make uninformed decisions that affected the fate of others (in video game form of course).

So we sighed and huffed and then eventually booted up the first episode of Life Is Strange.

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Our opinions were negatively biased going in and honestly the first episode didn’t do much to change that but the more we played the more we got sucked into the drama.

I gotta tell ya, that Nathan is a sketchy jerk! And where heckfire IS Rachel Amber anyway?!

Giant tornado aside the story quickly became a downward spiraling poo storm of bad decisions and worse compromises for poor Max Caufield. Her desperate attempts to keep Chloe, and everyone else, alive and relatively intact were becoming increasingly more futile!

Presentation

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The fact that Square Enix occasionally branches out and gets involved with smaller lesser known projects is honestly one of my favorite things about the company and while the games aren’t always mind blowing they are almost always unique in some way.

So when I saw that they were playing a part in publishing Life Is Strange it drew my attention, at first. But as I stated earlier the whole “time traveling teenage drama blah…blah…blah…”  spiel ended with a big ol’ nope!

The digital cover artwork didn’t do much to inspire interest either. Kinda plain Jane with just a blurry polaroid of who I assumed was (and actually is) the main character superimposed on a hand drawn backdrop with a lighthouse and waves.

Not really much strange going on there, other than Max’s poorly portrayed time-winding hand gesture. Before playing the game i thought she was doing a weird peace sign.  Maybe they thought it made her look mysterious or something.

The Game

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Life Is Strange is one of those games that draws in potential players by introducing a unique and interesting game mechanic that changes up the way the player interacts with their surroundings.  However, being a fairly complex concept, this usually means it isn’t always executed with all the style and grace of a more established game mechanic.

I found the act of rewinding time, especially during more crucial times, to be too variable in speed and length.  Sometimes time would rewind almost too fast and it was easy to go too far back while other times holding down that dang trigger button never seemed to end.  I wouldn’t say any of that made me enjoy applying the skill any less, I just hope for a more streamlined approach in any future iterations of the series.

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There is a short prequel currently in the works where you play as Chloe that I am eagerly awaiting its full release and I definitely intend to play the second one that is slotted to come out sometime in the near future.

The game was certainly divisive in its general reception and I will say I agree with the majority of the opinions on both sides. The hokey, outdated “teenage” lingo often used by the characters as well as the stiff animations were definitely a turnoff. But if I’m going to be honest with myself, the biggest downfall is the slow start to the story.

If I had only been given the first episode for free, I can’t say I would have dropped the cash to jump right into the second one. Even the second episode didn’t really grab me, face plant me into the TV and make me say “My God what will happen next??!!”.

But I forged on regardless and while the story never really put me on edge it was still a great plotline (which i promise not to spoil! Pinky promise!). It was definitely a plus that the developers didn’t attempt to sugarcoat the story in anyway by avoiding some of the more controversial incidents like bullying and suicide.

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In my opinion moments like that tend to develop the characters into more relatable beings, that in turn help the players immerse themselves into the story. They also persuade you to make choices based on what you think the character might choose, instead of just your own personal preferences.

The story ended up having plenty of hills and valleys, with an exponentially decreasing amount of hills the further you got, leaving you feeling depressed and morally corrupt regardless of your choices upon completing the game.

I still maintain that I would go back and replay it again sometime, more than likely making different choices as I go just for the sake of keeping it spicy, but I do feel more optimistic about the upcoming Life Is Strange 2. Although I’m sure my moral code will get equally trounced I hope Dontnod gets to it a little quicker next time.

Wait…what am I saying?

Maybe in the limited edition release they can include some adorable kitten pictures to keep on hand to raise your spirits back up as needed or a Life Is Strange 2 themed weighted blanket to relieve your anxiety.

I’m looking at you Dontnod! Don’t break my heart twice and make me like it!

Life is Strange Screen 7


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