With Life is Strange Dontnod have created something beautiful. Looking like a Dawson’s Creek episode and sounding like a hipster’s party, this is the perfect balance to the many aggressive and violent titles which dominate the market.
This is Dontnod’s second game after Remember Me and once again has a female character as the main protagonist. I recall seeing publicity for this game and thinking it was a brave move, and I can only begin to imagine the difficulties Dontnod would have faced in pitching this game. You play as an 18-year old photography student, Max Caufield, who’s returned to her home town of Arcadia Bay after five years away. This is miles away from the male dominated roles you’ll find in practically all other games.
The town of Arcadia Bay looks lovely in a faded out autumnal way. The use of light within this game provides such a warming tactile feel, and complements perfectly the role you play as a photography student. Scattered throughout the game are also loads of pop culture references from the likes of Catcher in the Rye to Twin Peaks and beyond. The soundtrack also fits perfectly within the game as a whole package, with the likes of Jose Gonzalez , alt-J and Mogwai you can immediately understand the mood this game does so well in capturing. The scene early in the game when you walk through the school corridor with your headphone on is a wonderfully evocative piece of gaming.
As an episodic story game we all know how this plays out, and Max gets can chose from answers to guide the story. However where this game differs from many others it Max’s ability to rewind time. Within the individual scenes present in the game you have the ability to rewind time and make your choices again, but this time armed with the information and items you may have obtained through your first choice. This allows for lots of fun to be had as you can play about with the actions you take, seeing the story from all angles or doing detective work and then covering your tracks.
Much more of an heir to the point and click games of the past, rather than a straight up story game Life is Strange offers a range of simple tasks to complete. These are all grounded in the life of a student and often include choices where there isn’t necessarily a right answer. Do you look at that pregnancy test you find, do you cover for your friend when her step dad catches her smoking a joint? The beauty with this game is your ability to rewind time and make your choices again, and again, and again.
I do have a few criticisms of this game and the most prominent is the lip syncing as this is often poorly done. Whilst not game ruining it does detract from the otherwise great consistent atmosphere of the game. The game also suffers from the multiple decision problem encountered in other story based games. You just know that somewhere in episode four a major event will occur and you will be locked out some choices due to the seemingly random choice you made in episode one. But this is a criticism of the genre itself, and it is my opinion the rewind function here helps you to make you own way.
The game doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and can be over in around 3 hours, you can spend much more time here if you explore all the interactive elements. The story told is well balanced and leaves you with a decent cliff hanger to hook you into the next episode, I for one can’t wait to see how this unfolds. Given this is out at the same time as the Telltale Games Game of Thrones episodic game it’s difficult not to compare the two, and it’s a comparison which does Telltale no favours. Life is Strange has a significantly greater sense of interaction, offers more consistent voice acting and gets the art style bang on.
Life is Strange is a wonderful tour de force in storytelling offering a gorgeous and naturalistic world in which to explore. The minutia of everyday college life is given a fresh breath of life with the ability to rewind your action and explore cause and effect. Overall a fantastic game and one you need to experience first hand.