Sunday, 12 April 2015

Life Is Strange (PC) Review

I stumbled across this game the other day and after watching the trailer, I was hooked to getting it. Putting it off for a couple of days since I had a house move this coming week, I eventually gave in and bought the game, and it is SO SO GOOD.

You are Max, an 18 year old returning to her hometown after five years and after a vision, mysteriously has the ability to turn back time. Which sounds amazing for misfit Max, who often makes conversational blunders. Rewind. Start again. Make the right choices.

Studying at Blackwell Academy, the everyday norms and cliches of American high school life is evident- the popular clique, jocks, nerds, the bad influence best friend, teasing, crushes and just trying to do well in your class! An added layer of plot complexity is missing girl called Rachel Amber. Her posters are plastered all over the school and you can't help but question what happened to her as you speak to the different characters. 

But Life is Strange doesn't stop there. Max's visions predict an apocalyptic future for the town in just 4 days, with each episode (5 in all) representing these days leading up to the disaster.

The first thing to notice about the game is the beautiful setting, cinema work and most of all the music. The indie tracks work wonderfully in the background as well as occasionally becoming the main event: you can simply switch on the stereo, lie on your dorm room bed and chill. Whilst not to everyone's liking, I found the Instagram colours and sketchy graphic style a perfect match for Max's personality.

I love story driven games and Life is Strange in just two episodes has me hooked. Being able to make choices that affect the outcomes of the story and other characters offers an engrossing experience, so much so that your emotions are often pulled in different directions as a result of your choices. 

Dealing with themes of bullying, depression, rape, suggested murder/kidnapping and relationships, the game took a dark but realistic turn in episode 2. I cannot wait to see how the story unfolds and just how my actions are going to affect the ending, and will surely spawn a replay of all five episodes at the end.

The only critiques I have about the game is the at times grating script and the length of game play. Each episode takes about about two hours to complete (looking at everything, speaking to everyone and taking pictures of everything you can) without much replay value other than to make a different choice if you choose to. 

Overall, Life is Strange is a refreshingly enjoyable story driven game about the life of a teen with super powers and apocalyptic visions. Can't wait till the next episode... 

Having played all five episodes, I have to say this has to be the most emotionally immersive game experience I have had in years. The beautiful graphic style, the characters, the twists... and the attention to detail... 

Whilst episodes 3 and 4 dimmed in comparison to the first two, and the new photo time travel mechanic was a little silly, the themes were important to the story and the emotional gravitas that it has, which proves to be significant in the final episode.

The concluding chapter (and the end of chapter 4) was some of the darkest storytelling I have experienced in a game, but worked so brilliantly. The inception-mind bending elements worked greatly in its favour as Max continues to fight what is going on around her and the impending storm. The climax to the whole thing was slightly predictable, BUT so vital... I was struggling for almost five minutes debating what to do...

The only downfall I feel is that the build up was so great and so overwhelming that the conclusion was not. It left a bit of a hole that you want filled. You want to find out a little bit more of what happens after. And you just want to be Max for a little while longer...

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