- + Charming art direction
- + Engaging writing
- + Beautiful music
- - The odd sound or frame rate hiccup
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full written review…
*Since this is episode one, I’m going to leave it spoiler-free and instead stick to talking more about the mechanics of the game and my feeling towards them.
Life is strange is a new game from French developer DONTNOD Entertainment, and allows players to carve their own story through the eyes of a teenage girl named Max Caulfield. After leaving her home in Oregon and moving to Seattle for five years with her parents, she returns and discovers what’s changed since her time away. Apart from rekindling a long-lost friendship, she also experiences strange glimpses into the future, realising she can also rewind time. It’s up to you to proceed with care, cus’ you know, butterfly effect and all.
At the beginning I wasn’t sure what to expect from Life Is Strange. From the outside it looked as though I’d be replicating TellTale’s titles; fixed camera angles and a strict one-choice feature for when I make decisions. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could move the camera’s perspective, and with the option to now rewind each action I performed, I no longer had only one choice to make.
All of a sudden I had the chance to replay moments and try an alternative take, leaving me to test my ability on multiple conversations and items in my environment. If I wasn’t quite satisfied with the end result of something, I’d rewind and try again. Sometimes I’d be talking to someone and present myself like a moron, but if I rewound the conversation and started again, I might have learnt a new piece of information to use to my advantage. Other times I might break an item and leave someone very upset, though it was no problem after a quick rewind.
It definitely had me thinking about what life would be like with this ability. Would it feel right to acquire such a power? I feel as though I might be tempted to re-live parts of my life just to be selfish and look after myself, but life isn’t always that simple. There were many times in the first episode where I’d be faced with a decision that would have consequences throughout the story and I wouldn’t be able to go back to change it, and that’s where I found myself truly stumped. Do I pick the decision that helps me, or do I perform a selfless act? These were stand-out moments for me.
There’s no doubt that the title has been HEAVILY influenced by TellTale’s brilliant point and click adventures. The whole premise revolves around choices and how they affect the story. Even in the end of an episode, I was given detailed statistics on which choices I’d made and the ones I missed or didn’t perform. It was bizarre to learn how much I walked past and could’ve interacted with. The biggest pull for me was the fact that I didn’t have to replay an entire episode to try different paths, opposite TellTale’s more ruthless but realistic structuring. The ability to rewind allowed me to experience a different outcome and weigh up which was best in my mind, and it was addictive. Don’t get me wrong, I love TellTale and all their titles, but this felt like a much more refreshing experience.
When I wasn’t altering time, I often opened up Max’s notebook and started reading her diary entries. I’ve never had the patience to read through much dialogue before in a video game, though here I trawled through nearly every piece of text I could find, and fell in love with the writing. I truly felt as though I knew the character and what she was going through; it all felt relatable. Despite how enamoured I was by its aesthetics and charm, a few audio glitches did pull me out of the experience at times, especially since I was wearing a headset.
Episode one clearly shows that the series has a lot of potential to grow within the coming months. Apart from the odd technical hiccup with sound or frame rate holding it back from amazing in my books, I suggest you pick up at the game and fall into its serene setting, charming characters and multilayered story.
Life Is Strange is out now for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. Episode One is priced at £3.99, or you alternatively get all five with the season pass for £15.99.
*Life Is Strange was provided to Start Replay on Xbox One by Square-Enix