Reviews

Life is Strange – A Journey – Episode 2

Life is Strange has impressed many since its release. Its 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.

Episode 1

Life is Strange – A Journey – Episode 2

I feel bad. You know how when video game characters start speaking you sometimes (or always) reach for your phone and quickly check your emails or Twitter, while staying vaguely aware of what’s going on? After all, video game writing is rarely very meaningful, often used as vacuous spacer between gameplay moments (or as a mask to load the next section). Well, I feel terrible because I am guilty of this habit and it has bitten me on the bum.

Life is Strange lets you rewind time just about all the time, and so you become entirely used to this “get out of jail” ability. After all, what does it really matter if you rummage through the personal belongings of your friends when you can always dial the clock back, replete with any knowledge gleaned from such snooping? And so you plough through the game world with this kind of entitlement, using your power all over the place. Until the game doesn’t let you.

This happens during a pivotal moment of Episode 2. One of your friends makes a life or death decision and you’re right there but you can’t rewind time and what you say tips the balance towards saving this friend or seeing them die. Because I’d done so much phone-checking, I couldn’t remember enough personal information about this friend. So I watched this friend die. And I feel really bad about it.

Life is Strange - A Journey - Episode 2

The game does a pretty crappy job of making you aware that you’ll be locked out of using your powers, and the dialogue options confused me: I thought I was simply working through a dialogue list, rather than making such a momentous decision. But then, isn’t real life just like that? Who knows what could be a huge, life-changing decision or moment? So yes, good one, Life is Strange, you got me. You got me good!

Elsewhere, this episode winds out a few key plot elements – this being the second day of five in the week – while still leaving much a mystery. The origins of Max’s powers are still unexplained, although Arcadia Bay itself is hinted at being somewhat self-aware, a universal focal point for weird, dark shit. The tough balancing act between student duties, friendships and the overhanging disaster that looms on day 5 is engaging to be part of and I much enjoyed visiting some new locations such as the diner and junkyard.

It felt like there was less agency in this episode, in that it was strongly pushing you towards a general narrative arc. Several choices did present themselves, whereupon I stuck to my guns as the kind of Max who always tells the truth, even if the system seems intent on burying it. The focus this episode was far less on school life and more on unveiling an extra layer of Arcadia. With only three episodes to go, I’m a little worried that things might get rushed. I’m also slightly terrified at having the time powers taken away from me again. Perhaps from now on I’ll leave the phone alone and pay deep attention to what’s being said. That’s probably the exact point Dontnod wanted to make.

Life is Strange - A Journey - Episode 2

“Episode 2 deepens both the mystery and your engagement with Max, her friends and the fate of Arcadia Bay. The gut-punch moment towards the end is perhaps a sign that as a player I need to care much more about the lives of everyone I talk to.”

Dylan Burns