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Review: Life Is Strange

If you want to know how it feels like to be a teenager, you can rewind time playing Life is Strange. This is an episodic adventure game developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix in 2015. The episodic format allows for the slow pace of the plot. I think the nostalgic feel to the game is conveyed by the realistic resemblance to the Pacific Northwest. The environment is so accurately portrayed that it draws you to immerse totally in the game.

GAME PLOT

The game’s story revolves around Max Caulfield, a teenager student who discovers her ability to rewind time and wants to use the powers in the best way possible. Her choices spark the butterfly effect, and the phenomenon is even better presented in the game than in the film. Using her time reversal powers, Max has to face the challenges of humanity, not to mention the challenges of being a teenager. Knowing that a storm approaches Arcadia Bay, Max has to do her best to prevent the catastrophe. All the events mix greatly with the psychological themes of self-discovery and teenage identity.

The plot replete with psychological struggle is the strongest point of the game, especially when it comes to the relationship between Max and her ex-friend Chloe – the punkish teenager dropout saved by Max.

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GAMEPLAY

In Life Is Strange the player adopts a third-person view. Set in the fictional Arcadia Bay, the player can explore various locations and feel the mystery of the place. You can also talk to the non-playable characters in the game. Branching options are used for communicating with other characters and you can rewind dialogue exchanges as well. Sometimes dialogue choices will affect the story and bring short or long-term consequences. Something which appears to be a good choice may provoke unpleasant series of events in the long run.

However, you can only rewind within the current scene, which makes Max’s influence on the future events limited. The ending and the original choices are determined when it comes to the final consequences. Max’s ability to control time is limited and sometimes you get the impression that she is trapped in the reality just like everybody else is.

Throughout the game, the player can examine and interact with the environment, doing some puzzle solving in the form of fetch quests. All the precious items you collect are further stored in the inventory before time-travelling.

GRAPHICS

The game is a visual piece of art for me. There are some excellent lighting effects in the game. The environment you explore is very detailed. Locations are shown from a distance and then in close which gives you a nice overall perspective. However, the graphics are poor on the trees and plants leaving some of the landscape feeling slightly lackluster. Facial expressions leave a lot to be desired and the animations look a bit stiff and thereby slightly unnatural. You get the impression that everything pulls you in – the characters, school and all the visuals make you more engaged in the story. I felt the same when playing The Walking Dead. Despite it’s flaws, the graphics give a charm to the overall picture.

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SOUND AND MUSIC

The music is one of many strong points of Life is Strange. Why? Soft, emotional ballads match the environment perfectly, giving a strange feel to the game. A feel that is much welcome as you explore Arcadia Bay – the town that lives its own life. Indie rock pieces match the graphics and atmosphere of the game perfectly. As Max puts on her headphones, you want to do the same. I have been listening to some pieces for a long time since my first encounter with the game characters.

VOICE ACTING

And yet another big plus of the game is the natural voice acting. The natural flair to the voice talents of the main characters makes them feel very genuine. The developer’s pursuit of perfect voicing cast has been successful. The voice matches character’s actions and moods well so that you feel everything is at the right time and the right place. Once you’ve listened to Max, you will feel an affinity with her.

OVERALL

Life is Strange is a great tale of the struggles of adolescence. Every problem from overdose, cyberbullying and domestic abuse to suicide has been presented with utmost credibility. The character development, story and time-travel mechanics make the game intriguing and very alluring. Any technical issues like the graphics or being invisible to other mates do not spoil the overall picture. The game’s honesty hits you so that it makes you connect with the painful moments and uplifted by the happier ones. It can be argued that the game did not live up to it’s full potential, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the overall picture, which is a slightly flawed but very impressive and ambitious.

Rating: 8/10

Written by Heidi Dilaurentis

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