It’s time to return to Arcadia Bay and pick up where we left off and see if the Life is Strange remains as beguiling as it was. Using a rewind time mechanic and showcasing some gorgeous hand-drawn art the first episode really stood out from the crowd and brought a fresh outlook to the episodic story led games we’ve seen with Telltale. We reviewed it previously and really enjoyed it. Now Episode Two (Out of Time) is out.
Once again you control Max, a student at an American University, this episode sees you further getting to grips with your time travel powers whilst navigating the social minefield of University life. The beauty of this game is the fact it revels in the hum drum and that makes it special. The first thing you’ll find yourself doing is gathering your toiletries in order to have a shower. Disarming nuclear bombs this is not, however in context of University life this works perfectly. Each location is peppered with items to read and interact with, and Max often makes interjections which add further colour to this world.
In Out of Time you really get to learn more about your friends, and some of the events you witnessed in Episode One come to play here. There is a reason the symbol of the butterfly is used throughout this game, and it’s the myriad of little choices you make throughout the game which send repercussions spreading out with unknown consequences. The repercussions of the decisions you made earlier on are handled intelligently and you begin to see deeper into the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Rachel Amber.
The same quibbles I had with the first game remain here. The lip synching is poor, and sometimes the words used are just a bit off. It’s likely the disconnect with the language use comes from the fact the developers are French writing about an American University, however once again the voice acting is top notch and rescues this from becoming an embarrassment. Couple this with wonderful art direction and considered choice of music and you have a game which is lovely to both look at and listen to.
This second episode moves things outside of campus a bit more. There is one scene in a diner which is wonderful to play through, making you feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. A later playful scene in a scrap yard is also great to enjoy. In fact this game revels in letting you play with time, making little insignificant choices then changing them. Giving you the crutch of time travel in a safe environment and letting you explore different outcomes is a great way to build up a safety net. That is until the final act where things become terrific.
The final act makes you consider the decisions you made throughout the game, and shows you how the choices you make both intentionally in answering questions, and unintentionally by reading or not reading certain documents carry weight. In a very dramatic scene all the minor choices you’ve made count and whilst the outcome is massive, I never felt the developers had taken my choices away from me. I felt emotionally drained once the scene had completed, and was left contemplating how my real world actions can carry unknowable consequences.
As a second instalment to a fantastic game Out of Time had a lot to prove. It needed to keep the plot moving but retain the same high standard of storytelling and character building as the first. It had to demonstrate the time travel mechanic was more than just a gimmick, yet allow you to play with it some more. As a game it is a wonderful example in storytelling, handling some very difficult topics in a very deft way. Placing you in a recognisable world with a masterful use of cause and effect which you can actually relate to, there is very little to criticise this game for.