When it comes to core gameplay Life Is Strange (LIS) is a modern, episodic, point and click adventure game in the same vein as TellTale’s The Walking Dead, however Dontnod Entertainment have created something completely unique and original in almost every other aspect. This is a game that balances intriguing gameplay with an ,at times, intense story.
In Life Is Strange you play as Maxine “Max” Caulfield, an 18-year-old photography student at Blackwell Academy in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The game explodes into life from the word go as we open on Max having an intense vision of an enormous tornado destroying Arcadia Bay. She awakes to the realisation that it was just a nightmare but a shocking event soon reveals that max has mysteriously gained the ability to rewind time! Suddenly that nightmare doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Of course this is just the setup; there is so much more to the story of Life Is Strange than the ever-looming threat of imminent destruction. This game delves into all the awkward and savage realities of teenage life with themes of abuse, bullying, and suicide, this game pulls no punches and is all the better for it.
There’s a lot that I like about Life is strange but first and foremost it’s the story. it’s strong, constantly evolving, and full of twists and turns. I never got bored playing this game as I was always entertained whether I was laughing, on the edge of my seat, or emotionally exhausted; almost every episode of LIS has at least one strong and impactful story point and each one is perfectly enhanced with the beautiful soundtrack that plays throughout the game, creating a haunting tone that sticks with you even after you finish an episode.
In the game you have the ability to manipulate time, you can reverse it whenever you like and replay almost any moment of the game as many times as you want until you feel you’ve achieved the perfect scenario for that conversation or situation. Not only is the time travel a very interesting and unique gameplay mechanic, it is an important part of the story and I’ve never seen a time travel concept implemented into a game this well before. Graphically the game has a rather pretty ‘watercolour-esque’ style, giving it a recognisable and very pleasing look that doesn’t lose its charm throughout the 14+ hours of gameplay.
Life Is Strange is not a perfect game. It of course has its flaws and it’s arguable that time travel is one of them. When you’re able to perfect every possible conversation and event in the game in a single playthrough it removes a large element of re-playability and somewhat negates the whole choice aspect of the game; sure you can choose to not do everything the “right way” but why would you. Repeating the same conversations can also become tedious even when the game gives you the option the skip some dialogue you’ve seen before. Because of this rewinding again and again can be a little frustrating. My final gripe with the game is that occasionally dialogue between teenagers feels very obviously written by a slightly out of touch adult. really it isn’t that bad, most of the writing is quite solid, I’m just saying be ready to hear the word “Hella” a whole damn lot.
In summary, Life Is Strange is a game that creates a mostly believable melancholy teenage tone surrounded by a heavy and intriguing sci-fi mystery. The gameplay is fun and fresh when explored in moderation and when all’s said and done, it’ll leave you wanting more. I truly enjoyed playing this game and is something I’d recommend to pretty much anyone.