Thursday, 17 March 2016

Life is Strange

There's very few games that handles depression, identity, isolation, and regret quite like Life is Strange does. There are no moments of comic-relief or forced humour but there are moments of beauty that make you smile. It's serious but only rarely does it move into the heavy-handed territory. It's an episodic game also that builds in confidence that culminates in an ending that isn't as strong as some other moments in the game but one that also felt right.

Out now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 from developers Dontnod is Life is Strange. The adventure game stars Max Caulfield who has returned to her hometown to attend a college to study photography. The only thing is that when she left a few years before, she left behind her best friend Chloe who still lives in Arcadia Bay but she isn't the same person Max remembers.

While Max has excelled and been a success academically, Chloe has technically gone off the rails and rebels against everything; You know, the kind of stroppy teenager that blames everyone but themselves on fucking things up and no taking their own actions responsibly. I'm really starting to hate all teenagers in my old age of mid-20s. Well, when Max comes back into Chloe's life, things aren't all roses as Chloe clearly shows abandonment issues as well as hating her step-father. But Max is special. On top of the social complexities of being a teenager and starting in a school where you feel like an outcast, Max discovers that she can in fact rewind time and this becomes the crucial differentiator to other adventure games in the same vein.

I know it may sound blasphemous to so many of you but Life is Strange is a better Telltale game than any Telltale game. It's not always perfect, hell, some of the dialogue and moments are embarrassingly out of touch with what younger people say and how they act. The first episode is the worst offender of this with the overuse of the word "hella" and believe me it gets hella annoying. Oh dammit! The time manipulation helps bring some of the game's puzzles to a more than straight forward structure. While it's used a few times throughout the five episodes, it's the power in which manipulating time alters lives and situations that will stay in your mind.

There's a lot of themes and discussion throughout the course of its five episodes. We always question the "what ifs" and Life is Strange allows you to actually go back and carry through that but it may not always be the way you wanted it to go and sometimes, the way things are is the best place to be. It's all a very contemplative experience; One that you can't help but try find yourself in one of those situations or as one of the characters at one time in your life whether it was as drastic or not. You could the one who's parent got with someone else and you couldn't accept them, you could be the one that feels invisible to the world, or the one that feels like they don't have a place in the world.

Possibly the best thing that can be said about Life is Strange is the fact that it feels and plays out like an indie movie. From the soundtrack to the actual cinematography in some scenes, it all feels like you could easily watch it all. The writing improves as the episodes go but as a lover of indie films, this games has a very special place in my heart for more than one reason.

Life is Strange, and beautiful. 5/5.


Jason Redmond

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