Titan Books has published a hardback book titled Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy available from numerous online retailers and high street book stores. Can Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy deliver what it sets out to by producing a companion to the smash hit Life is Strange videogame franchise?
Life is Strange is a third-person story driven episodic adventure available via retail stores as a complete season limited edition and digitally on home consoles and PC. Life is Strange was critically acclaimed from the outset; winning such awards as New Game IP on consoles or PC and Use of Narrative at Develop Industry Excellence Awards; Best Adventure and Best Original Game at Global Game Awards; and Games for Impact at The Game Awards 2015. The episodic narrative of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is a prequel developed by Deck Nine to Dontnod Entertainment’s five episode award-winning season, while Dontnod Entertainment was extremely busy crafting the exceptional third-person action adventure Vampyr before the free to download Life is Strange: Season 2 prequel episode The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit and the much anticipated Life is Strange: Season 2.
Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is in experienced hands as Matt Forbeck has written award-winning videogames and fiction for three decades. Matt Forbeck has written sixteen novels including award-nominated Guild Wars: Ghosts of Ascalon, critically acclaimed Amortals and Vegas Knights, the Magic: The Gathering comic book and horror novel Carpathia.
Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is written from the perspective of Chloe, Max and Rachel doodling over a Blackwell Academy campus book containing lots of Chloe Price’s trademark humour. For instance, on page 26 when referring to the stadium that Blackwell Academy’s sports teams including Arcadia Bigfoots play at; Chloe draws Bigfoot and writes, “So glad someone finally settled the greatest terminology argument of our time: Bigfoots or Bigfeet? WHEW!”
As a college preparation high school campus book; there are various informative features about Blackwell Academy starting out with some familiar characters including when the high school was founded and who founded it, a greeting from Principal Wells and a special message from Blackwell Academy benefactor Sean Prescott. There is also a floor plan, recommendations to enrolling at Blackwell Academy to which Chloe makes up her own quotes and makes fun of those that recommended Blackwell Academy followed by the school’s facilities, alongside grounds and buildings such as the library, theatre and dorm rooms. Page 31 onwards sees the book venture outside of study related activities to having fun and adventure by covering the sights and scenes of Arcadia Bay, further afield in Oregon, dining were Chloe remarks that she believes Principal Wells is a robot as she has never seen him eat any food and a wide range of student clubs.
Pages 52 through 69 are focused on student profiles including some of the major and supporting characters with an introduction followed by a discussion of post-Blackwell Academy plans, birthplace, the reason for attending Blackwell Academy, favourite thing about Blackwell Academy and a quote with an overview of hometown, sports and club participation, hobbies and living on or off-campus accompanied by a picture for Rachel Amber, Victoria Chase, Steph Gingrich, Warren Graham, Michael North, Nathan Prescott, Chloe Price and Justin Williams.
Page 72 onwards is where Max’s involvement within the book substantially increases as introduced by Chloe’s talent for drawing with felt-tip pen artwork of Chloe hugging Max followed by “Here begineth Max (and Chloe’s) exclusive, secret and artistically magestic gallery!” Fans of Max’s character and her ability to take incredible photographs will be pleased as this is the core element of the subject matter until page 121 in a brilliantly implemented feature that embraces Max’s return to Arcadia Bay and her reunion with her best friend forever Chloe Price comprising of Max’s photographs of Chloe’s room, kitchen and back garden where they spent so much time socialising before Max moved to Seattle; Max’s awesome wall of photography; the lighthouse; the Chloemobile; Arcadia Bay’s cute animals such as the doe and squirrel; Arcadia Bay’s coast; character portraits; and much more besides.
The final quarter of the book is reversed if you have read from the Blackwell Academy front cover; as the 40 pages on the reverse front cover is dedicated to the town of Arcadia Bay and the surrounding environments with rather amusing annotations from Chloe and Max such as the official map of Arcadia Bay being replaced by Max and Chloe’s official map of Arcadia Bay; posters advertising Chloe’s mum’s diner, local newspapers, the shirt shop and more besides; and places of interest such as the shore, lighthouse, culmination state park, golf course, the old mill and more. Elsewhere, there are interesting facts about the life, history, residents and amenities of Arcadia Bay followed by more advertisements.
Quality of writing is accurate in tone to Life is Strange’s subject matter as the majority of Chloe’s graffiti is humorous, although there is some swearing, darker comments and references that Chloe makes that are related to how she copes with who she has lost in her life and not liking where her life is at in that moment. Meanwhile, Chloe’s close friend Rachel also writes in response to Chloe such as their wonderful back and forth banter about the Tempest production from Life is Strange: Before the Storm as Rachel writes, “Mr. Keaton rocks!” to which Chloe responds, “Drama much?”, Rachel asks, “Do you not love drama?” and Chloe quips, “It’s just so…dramatic”. Rachel thanks Chloe for her participation in the stage production, “I still can’t believe you subbed in for this. Thank you so much!” to which Chloe responds, “Don’t mention it. Please. Ever. Again”; accompanied by a written focus on Blackwell Academy’s approach to drama and theatre, alongside a picture of the main cast in their costumes.
Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy’s presentation is amazing as it immediately creates an impression on the reader with a double front cover including Chloe’s moody interpretation of Blackwell Academy on one side and a tranquil welcome to Arcadia Bay on the reverse, albeit decorated by Chloe’s stickers and scribbling on both covers. Chloe’s writing and stickers really induces personality throughout the entire book such as a still 8-bit sticker on the Blackwell Academy Student To-Do List on page 40 showing that Chloe is a big fan of retro gaming and multiple Hawt Dawg Man stickers situated throughout the book. Meanwhile, the chemistry of Chloe’s and Rachel’s friendship is emphasised through their scribbled responses to each other and how Max’s passion for photography is brought to the forefront changes up the presentation half way through the book in a positive sense by providing an alternative dynamic to Chloe’s art and the Blackwell Academy campus guide. Another nice touch to the presentation is a wrap around the book that can be used as a bookmark with a design featuring Max and Chloe on the front and a blurb on the back.
Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy’s value is significant over the course of 160 pages as it provides an insight into Chloe’s personality, sense of humour and where she is at in her life, while Max has a big involvement especially from page 72 through 121 with her fantastic photography and Rachel responds to a lot of Chloe’s comments within the first half of the book.
- Title: Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy
- Writers: Matt Forbeck
- Publisher: Titan Books
- Length: 160 pages
- Cover: Hardback
Life is Strange fans can also look forward to a Life is Strange graphic novel collection; released on April 30th 2019 published by Titan Comics. Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy can be purchased in the UK from Amazon and Forbidden Planet, while Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy can be purchased in America and Canada from Amazon. You can also find Titan Books’ official website including a back catalogue of captivating books and product details regarding Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy.
- Writing - 95%95%
- Artwork - 95%95%
- Value - 95%95%
Overall, Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy showcases a clear understanding of not only Chloe and Max’s long-time friendship in Life is Strange: Season 1, but also Chloe’s close friendship with Rachel as depicted in Life is Strange: Before the Storm, alongside references to personal opinions of other characters in the original season and prequel season. Life is Strange: Welcome to Blackwell Academy is highly recommended to fans of the Life is Strange franchise and books based upon the subject matter of videogames.