Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life is Strange Full Review

A few weeks ago I posted my review of the first episode of Life is Strange, an episodic point and click adventure game that was released by Square-Enix in 2015.

Since then, I have had the chance to play the rest of the game (episodes 2-5).  Do I love the direction this game took or do I wish I could reverse time and unplay it?

So, a quick refresher.  In Life is Strange you play as Max, a young girl attending Blackwell Academy, either a fine arts high school or a college (it's never really established).  After a rather traumatic event, Max realizes she has the ability to rewind time (that clever line from the last paragraph is paying off).   She uses her powers to save a mysterious blue haired girl who turns out to be Max's estranged childhood best friend Chloe.   After reconnecting, Max and Chloe decide to team up and investigate the strange happenings around Blackwell Academy as well as discover the secret of a local missing girl Rachel Amber.

The charm of Life is Strange revolves around the interaction with the characters.  Blackwell Academy and the local town of Arcadia Bay is full of eclectic and interesting people.  Life is Strange is what I like to call a narrative driven game.  Basically the emphasis is on the story and experiences you have rather than action set pieces.  I'm a big fan of this style of gameplay but if you prefer a faster pace, this may not be the adventure for you.

As I said before, the characters are where this game shines.  Your typical cast is present and accounted for.  You have the friend/love interest (depending on what choices you make) in Warren.  The popular/rich advisories in Victoria and Nathan.  A mentor, Mr. Jefferson and many many more.  There are countless dialogue options in the games and you can use your time altering powers to reverse decisions that don't sit right with you.  But remember, sometimes all you have are bad choices and you still have to choose.  

In typical point and click action, the majority of the gameplay revolves around exploring locations and finding the item to you need to make the thing work.  In this case, usually involving time shenanigans.  Again, this style of play can be a little slower for some people, so keep that in mind.  In the first episode of the game, Max has a vision of an impending storm that will devastate the town.  So while her and Chloe are playing amateur sleuth, they must also devise a way to save Arcadia Bay in the process.

So now, the reason you're all here.  What did I think of the game?  In case it wasn't completely obvious yet, I loved the writing and characters.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't perfect.  As I said in my last review, it was obvious the game was written by adults.  There are times you hear teenage girls say lines that would have been out of touch in the 80s.  Despite some minor hiccups, the story is well told and I was generally interested in what people had to say.  There were quite a few occasions where I found myself rewinding time just so I could hear the dialogue options that I missed.  The story was engaging and took some unexpectedly dark turns at times.  I always found myself interested in the progression of the plot and wanted to know what would happen next.  

The puzzles all seemed fairly intuitive.  The only times I would find myself frustrated was when I forgot I have my time manipulation abilities.  After I remembered that, it was generally smooth sailing.  When I first started the game I was nervous that being able to rewind all of my choices would make the game too easy.  Luckily, the choices are more of a tool to facilitate the story.  Basically what I mean by that is there will be negative consequences from any choice you make.  It is up to you as the player to decide which road you want to travel.  There is one pivotal moment where the game takes away your abilities and you are forced to fly without a safety net.  This was one of the most stressful and heart wrenching moments in the game for me.  One of the most vital points and you don't get a second try.  

Overall I thought this was an amazing experience that is certainly worthy of a Platinum Spirit.  There is a ton of buzz on the internet with people calling this their game of the year for 2015.  After experiencing it, I can see why.  I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Quantic Dream or Talltale Games.  Even if you're not, I would recommend branching out and taking a stab at it.  Many places offer the first episode free or discounted so there is relatively little risk.  The soundtrack alone is a great experience.  I found myself sitting on the title screen more than once while browsing Facebook and responding to texts just I could listen to the music.  

You had one job game!

-Big O

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