[Game Review] Life Is Strange™

I’ve been hearing so much hype for Life Is Strange since last year and after finding out Square Enix (aka the developers/publishers of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts) published the game, my expectations almost skyrocketed and I was very interested to try it.

Story

Life Is Strange follows the main character, Max Caulfield, in her journey as a senior photography student in the renowned Blackwell Academy. It is a game that tackles the butterfly effect, as she discovers that she has the ability to rewind time and change her choices that ultimately affect the future.

Life is Strange’s story is so smooth and well-written that you fully understand the consequences or why the outcome is so based on the choices you made 2 or 3 episodes before as everything is integral and supplementary to the main story. Sometimes it gives you the choice to water plants, feed animals, etc. which most probably shows what kind of person you are, but only if you take the time to actually look around your environment. At the end of each chapter, you can see the decisions you made throughout while seeing the percentage of players that picked certain choices. My favorite thing about it is that it gives you life advice and really makes you think about destiny, and if it’s real.

I honestly did not understand the hype for this game when I played episodes 1 and 2. I felt like it was all too much and I even wrote a little note where I write some comments of what I think of the game, “What the hell is going on”.

life is strange memeI took a break to focus on school and also because I decided I didn’t like the game so much, but after 4 months, I started to fall in love at chapter 3 and definitely knew how good the game was once I finished it. Some small parts of the dialogue were iffy (slang used, some things they would say) for me, although I like how it’s contemporary and noticed how Catcher in the Rye somewhat influenced the game, what with Max’s last name and this poster on the photo to the left! I also like how it raises environmental and mental health issues, bullying, and personal issues.

Graphics

Definitely not what I expected especially since Square Enix published it although there’s usually a catch when it comes to this, so I looked closer at how the graphics were done and if you notice, there’s a slight detail of brush strokes, so I figured, “This is going to be a hella artsy game”. life is strangeI honestly liked that little detail and you see more of how the game feels very artistic in the main Max’s journal. It has a very scrapbook-y and nice aesthetic. It honestly makes me appreciate and see the game in a different light, because rather than it being completely smooth and CGI like in Kingdom Hearts, there’s a sense of sincerity and a touch of something personal that you don’t really seem to find in other games. It made me think more of how Max felt about certain things which is a nice touch that helped me understand more of what Max was going through. Also, when I found out that the visuals were hand-painted, my respect for this game boomed.




I initially downloaded episode 1 on Steam but my laptop can’t take some kinds of games, so I watched a couple of walkthroughs where players played the game on a computer and it’s a lot like a point-and-click. I find it really cute how it shows interactive objects the way you would point out what something is when drawing. Even the auto-save icon (on the lower left) and controls for the PS4 (lower right) are scribbled that way, probably representing how Max sees these objects in her head. As she is a photographer, she sees things a lot more visually. The only main problem I had was in the later episodes, Max would be talking with someone but her lips weren’t moving at all.

Gameplay / Controls

life is strange controls

As I mentioned, I stopped playing the game for 4 months, so I was worried about playing again knowing I wouldn’t remember the controls, but it was actually no problem at all because everything on the screen still tells you which buttons to press and going back to your journal helps you remember in detail exactly what happened the last time. Not only that but the main screen has a “How to Play” option, which really doesn’t have any complicated controls.

Starting a new chapter also recaps what happened in the past episodes, which especially helps if you’re buying per episode and you don’t get to play very often.  One of the main reasons I actually stopped playing the game for a while is because the gameplay can make you so nauseous since you’re really looking around. It’s not the automatic kind of camera, you really steer everything as if you’re looking through Max’s eyes even though you play her in third person. As much as I wanted to finish the game in one sitting, I really had to stop and lay on my bed, but that’s mainly cause I get motion sick, so to those people like me, play the game in moderation! Look out for your health ✌️

Sounds

One of my favorite parts! It’s an all indie folk soundtrack that I loved so much, it made me appreciate the graphics and the feel a whole lot more. All the sound effects used really gave the game a more realistic feel. The use of silence was also utilized well, and the flow was very smooth, although when some of the songs with lyrics play, Max still talks over it so without subtitles, it’s difficult to really understand what she’s saying. Despite that, there are sequences in the game where a cutscene continues after a dialogue, viewing certain parts of the room just like Max would while seated or laying in bed, and the music enhances the mood so much I actually just left it for a while before playing again because the feel felt really calming.

Conclusion

I feel like Life is Strange is better purchased in full rather than per episode, because back when I first played this, I was really sure I didn’t want to buy the next episode. That or I’d be really lazy to buy it, or I’d probably forget to. But I bought the full game on the PS4 so I kept going and realized how great the story is. I really love the game, but as per ESRB, it’s a mature game. It tackles a lot of heavy topics, and I really congratulate Dontnod Ent. because this game is so good and really made me think and question philosophical things about life and really highlighted social issues really well. Nothing about it felt forced at all, and since it’s kind of structured like a mystery game, it all added up. It actually felt like an interactive TV show. Progressing involves simple mini-games that involve you using your power, adding puzzle elements that challenge your logic. I’m actually still re-playing it. Thanks to this, I’d really like to give their other game, Remember Me, a try as well.

Rating: 8 / 10

Life is Strange garnered many awards such as the BAFTA Games Awards for Best Story, the Fun&Serious Game Festival winner for Best Soundtrack, and more. Get the game on Steam.




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