Firstly, I’ll say this right off the bat, but Life is Strange is quite an old game now. It was released in January 2015, which is over 18 months old. In gaming terms this game should be looking wistfully out of its room in the gaming retirement home. However, due to an offer on Steam where the first episode is handed out for free, and the fact that playing episode one caused me to download the rest of the five episodes immediately, I figured that it was very much worth a review to show you just what I think of this game.
When Maxine Caulfield falls asleep in one of her Photography lectures she has an ominous dream of a large storm. A storm that will destroy the sleepy town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. She shrugs it off, as most people would, endures the rest of her class and heads to the bathroom. While she’s there, she witnesses the murder of a young girl. Plus she discovers she can now rewind time. It’s only a matter of minutes but it’s enough to save the life of the girl.
It’s hard to go into a lot of detail in regards to the story without littering this review with spoilers, but suffice to say that over the course of the five episodes a series of mysteries start to unravel, that involves bullying, date-rape, assault, corruption and murder. Many of its reviewers commended this game’s adult themes upon its release. All these adult themes in a game that constantly plays with chaos theory and butterfly effect.
Life is Strange is primarily a puzzle story game. You move Max around the environment and interact with objects by way of the mouse. You can talk to the various people and attempt to unravel the mystery of Arcadia Bay. Your decisions play a large part in this game. You are asked to make various choices as you play the game. Such as, lie to someone or tell them the truth; stay in the wardrobe or bust out and confront someone. Each choice you make either conversationally or by your actions will change the outcome of future conversations and outcomes. If you’ve played The Walking Dead or he Wolf Among Us by Telltale games they follow a very similar route.
The biggest and most original part of the Life is Strange gameplay is the manipulation of time that you (as Max) can perform. When Max rewinds time, she remembers everything before the rewind, she still has any objects she may have picked up and she doesn’t move. It is these three things that are the basic concept of most of the puzzles.
For example, you start talking to somebody and they respond angrily to your questions, but mention they love their dog. Well, you rewind time, and start the conversation again but this time mention their dog and they respond more pleasantly. Or you need to get into a room but it is locked on the inside? Well, kick down the door and enter the room. Now you can rewind time whilst in the room to before the door was broken, and then unlock the door from the inside. You get the idea. You can rewind time as many times as you need, or none at all in some cases and just live with the consequences.
Towards the middle of the game, Max also realises she can travel back in time by going into old photographs, affecting what she knows as the present and the future.
Another thing I like about LiS is that each area you can visit, breaths more life and reality into Arcadia, from the Two Whales Diner to the dorms of Blackwell Academy. Each area is filled with people going about their day that you can interact with or not. There’s always somewhere for you to just relax and watch the world go by. Each character is drawn and animated well, so there really isn’t anything to complain about their either. The graphics almost take a back seat, while the gameplay, sound and storyline take the wheel.
The sound is another wonderful element of the game. The sound effects are good enough and about as you would expect them to be. Sometimes the lip-synching was a little off in some places, but it didn’t affect the game for me. The sound took the game to a new level by way of the songs and instrumentals played throughout the game. These songs were actually released as an official soundtrack at the start of this year.
The inclusion of officially licensed songs gave the game a certain cinematographic feel that I haven’t seen in many other games. Although with SquareEnix having their hand in it, I shouldn’t be that surprised.
Well, Life is Strange has replayability by the time-warping bucket-load. You are shown the choices that you made at the end of each episode, so that when you replay the game you can make different choices. Considering the sheer amount of choices within the game, you could spend years trying to figure out the full effects for each outcome of all your decisions. Although, the decisions you make are never as innocent or naïve as they are during the first play-through, it’s still fun to find out how a completely different Max, making different decisions can alter things so greatly.
- Storyline - 90%90%
- Gameplay - 95%95%
- Graphics - 85%85%
- Sound - 90%90%
- Replayability - 95%95%
How did Life is Strange pass me by 18 months ago? I’m crazy for anything chaos theory and butterfly effect related (except the sequels to Butterfly Effect, which are god-awful) and I’m stunned I managed to miss this. Well, Life is Strange is definitely worth the £16.99 price tag, but if you still need convincing download the first episode for free from Steam.
As far as I am concerned Life is Strange has everything I could want in a story driven puzzle game. It has good graphics, wonderfully matched sound, a strong and adult storyline, and a strong time-based gameplay hook.