Life is Strange has impressed many since its release. It’s tale has captivated the thousands that have played it. It was so captivating to our own, very talented Dylan Burns the he felt the need to not only write about the game but create some of his own pieces of art to go with his words. So settle in for a game review like no other, welcome to Dylan’s journey through Life is Strange.
Life is Strange – A Journey – Episode 1
High school is hard enough, but for Max, not only has she moved back to her cliquey home town of Arcadia Bay to attend a prestigious art academy, but she discovers – quite suddenly and without any real explanation as to why – she has the limited ability to rewind time at will. Given such temporal power, one might be tempted to get up to all kinds of shenanigans, but Max is a polite young woman, one with a confident core despite her unsure expression to the outside world. Max wants to communicate so many things to the world, and she has found an outlet to do so in photography.
So it is that Max’s use of her powers features not peeking into shower stalls or stealing everyone’s money (you keep any objects you attain when time is rewound), but rather more reactionary use and certainly only when the situation demands moral examination. Do you tell the principal what you saw, dobbing on a student, or do you keep your mouth shut? Do you allow your friend to know that you rifled through their belongings, or rewind time while retaining all the knowledge you gained from being nosey? Of course, some decisions are more impactful than this, and during this first episode the mechanic is explored largely in the form of small, time-related puzzles that are easily solved once you realise that you need to punch the clock back a little.
What makes Life is Strange so enjoyable, at least so far, is its confident exploration of the mundane. Yes, these characters are strangely apt to outbursts of violence and are quirky as only fictional characters are apt to be, yet there’s magic in the simple act of walking through small spaces, investigating every poster, opening every drawer, using every computer and always being on the lookout for a perfect photographic opportunity for Max.
There’s no shooting or cover-snaps or power runs. Instead, you will head to the dorms to retrieve a thumb drive, or reconnect with an old friend and head to her place to fix your camera. It’s during these threads that the slightly off elements of Arcadia start to reveal themselves, and the import of Max’s new power hinted at. You save one life in this episode, and with four to go the feeling is strong that the stakes will only increase, making each binary moment far more impactful.
The art style is gorgeous, almost impressionistic in parts, and the little guitar ditties that follow you settle over the experience like perfect seasoning. While there are a few stressful moments, the pacing is quite slow and you can really take your time to explore the settings, each with a set of small time-reversal mechanics, usually social related. Max may be none the wiser about a particular subject, but with the ability to listen to an answer and then go back, she becomes an instant expert. The idea of each episode being one day is used to good narrative effect, too, as Max receives a vision of a disaster that will occur by then end of the last episode (unless you somehow stop it, I’m assuming).
I’m looking forward to the second episode, especially now that the main uses of the mechanic are clear. Hopefully it doesn’t jump the shark.