Life Is Strange is a game with many interesting ideas that shine through in its first episode, Chrysalis. Taking place in Arcadia Bay, a small town in the Pacific Northwest of America, you play as Max Caulfield. Max is an 18 year old that has returned to her hometown after 5 years away to attend one of the best photography courses in the country.

It’s like something lifted straight from an indie high school drama. Luckily the game knows that and doesn’t try to be something it is not. The performances from the voice actors are strong for the most part, as is the writing, but these elements are let down by some issues that can’t be ignored. The game really struggles to match up lip-sync movement with the words that are being spoken. This is fairly distracting and, in a game that is trying to tell a very personal and emotion driven story, it can really affect how much of an impact some of the most immersive scenes during the episode. This isn’t helped either by the fact that facial reactions don’t always match up with the emotion the characters voice is portraying.

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Thankfully, Life Is Strange has enough charm and is a unique enough idea to battle through these negatives. The painting like art style is lovely, there are some moments that will make you genuinely laugh and the story is sweet enough to pull the emotions of most players. Where the game shines though is in its mechanics. Like all interactive dramas, there are several options in what to do and various dialogue paths to go down, which can have many outcomes. Unlike its counterparts however, there is one thing the games protagonist, Max, can do which others can’t. She can reverse time.

This ability helps open up new dialogue options when talking to people and even allows you to see how an event unfolds before rewinding and seeing the alternative. You are able to rewind until you leave an area and this means you’ll find yourself trying to find the option that’s the least morally dubious. It’s a great mechanic that will have you second-guessing yourself at every turn and being tactical with your options, in a way that you wouldn’t normally find in this genre. Although games that try and recreate the indie cinema charm, are rising in numbers and there’s not a plethora of them, and there are even less that try to recreate that feeling of being in school and college. The town is also populated just enough to make it feel like a real location, the autumn look of it all is lovely and there is enough interaction with even minor characters for the game to feel that more real.

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Quickly you will pick the characters you side with and the ones that you will side against. Moral choices are often more than just black and white too. The game decides to inform you when something you do will have effects in the future but, quite brilliantly, it’s not always obvious to figure out how. You’ll find yourself pausing to ponder what will actually happen from picking something up or moving something somewhere else, before leaving an area with not much else to do but that. With all of these multiple choices there is a fair bit of replayability, even in just in one episode. When you consider the replayability of this episode alone, then the added fun to track down photo opportunities, as well as the lovely environments and the likeable supporting cast then, for £3.99, you’re getting something you can lose many hours to.

Whether Life is Strange can maintain the momentum from Chrysalis through to its entire season remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how all of your choices make the story play out and how much they affect proceedings. If you’re a fan of teenage dramas like Rushmore, Juno and The Breakfast Club and happen to also have a love for games like The Walking Dead, Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain, this first episode is well worth your time. It’s not a game that everyone will enjoy, despite it being easy for all to pick up but, for those it does click with, they won’t be disappointed.



Author

Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2