Life is Strange is a game that tells a beautiful story about life, love, and mistakes. Here’s our review.
What is it?
Going into Life is Strange I really didn’t think that the game would have an impact on me the way it did. I’ve played and beaten games such as Heavy Rain and TellTale’s The Walking Dead. Those games changed my view on the role of narrative in games. I’ve enjoyed my time with Until Dawn, and thought Beyond: Two Souls was cool. Life is Strange uses a similar formula as these games but in my opinion, has cemented a place alongside the best of them.
Life is Strange is an episodic narrative based adventure game. That’s a convoluted way of saying that the game focuses less on the gameplay aspect and more on the story. In Life is Strange, you play as Max Caulfield, a high school girl who discovers she has the power to rewind time. Without spoiling the story, basically there is some weird stuff going on at school and you’re trying to get to the bottom of it with the help of your best friend, Chloe.
How is it?
It is hard to pinpoint everything that is amazing about Life is Strange without going into spoilery story details. Let’s just say that what may have impressed me the most in Life is Strange was the use of themes that you don’t often see in video games. The game gave me the feeling that I would get while watching an independent film. It felt true to the vision of what it was meant to be. It has a story and feel that you wouldn’t expect many games to have because of the lack of mainstream appeal. Yet, it makes it work.
Life is Strange takes place in a county in the Pacific Northwest called Arcadia. The way it captures the attitude of the area and portrays high school life in general is something that I wish I could see more of in other games. It’s something that Life is Strange does well. There’s a scene early on in the game where you explore your friend’s bedroom and upon entering this scene, I immediately started to feel nostalgic. For the record, I’m 21 and grew up in the Midwest. It wasn’t that long ago that I was in high school. But the feels were real. Seeing that room filled me with memories of high school and gave me the same feeling of walking into the room of one of my own friends. The posters. The CDs. The mess. And the weird part is that this wasn’t a part of the game that was trying to evoke an emotional reaction from the player. There is plenty of that in the game, but in this particular case, the presentation had just nailed it so hard that I couldn’t help but to have a reaction. Life is Strange continues to nail this in their presentation every step of the way.
What pushes Life is Strange even further is the rewind mechanic. This mechanic separates Life is Strange from the likes of Until Dawn, Heavy Rain, and Telltale game series. The rewind mechanic allows players to undo actions that they had just performed. It adds another variable to puzzle solving in the game and gives you the opportunity to undo choices that you had just made in the game. It is interesting because in other narrative based adventure games, when you make a decision, you’re stuck with that decision whether you like the outcome or not. With the rewind mechanic, which also is cleverly integrated into the story, you’re able to see the outcome of your choices and make a decision from there.
Life is Strange is about different things. It’s about life as a teenager. It’s about the mistakes that we make. It’s about our relationships. It’s about innocence. It’s about artistry. And the list goes on. By the end of the game, it nails what it tries to do perfectly. Some may argue that the multiple endings of the game were not satisfying, or that a certain ending is much better than another. In my opinion, the way that life is Strange ends is the way that the game absolutely has to end in order to make sense. I can’t talk more about that in this review but let me just say that I firmly believe that the way the game ended was handled very well.
No game is without its flaws. Life is Strange suffers from ridiculous fetch quests at a few points. One time the game asked me to look for 5 bottles in a woodsy area and it took me an hour. And I ended up using a walkthrough to find the last one. That was ridiculous. The game also looks rough in some places but the art style helps it a lot. It’s not going for realism and so its graphical shortcomings are very forgivable. Also, there is some cheesy cliché dialogue at some points in the game. Once again, it’s forgivable seeing as how most of the dialogue is pretty good.
Life is Strange tells a beautiful story. A story that brought out emotions in me that I have not felt while playing any other game. Life is Strange asked me to make choices that made me sit down and really ponder how exactly I wanted to move forward. And that isn’t exaggeration. There was one choice in the middle of the game that was so polarizing that I had to pause the game and have an hour long text convo with my sister so I could clear my head and get advice. That’s how invested I was with this game and these characters. The story of Life is Strange is one that I think everyone should experience at some point. That is why I would say this game is a must play.