It has been a long time since I have wrote a gaming piece. To be quite honest, I have not been playing games as often this Fall. I played through Red Dead 2 late in the Summer and then I hit a lull. I tried different games and none have left a big impression until I played Life is Strange.
I’ve seen this game here and there in the rear view mirror over the years but I never have really looked into it. I knew it was a story driven type of game but that was about it.
I like to watch channels on the Pluto TV app when there isn’t much else on. One night my wife and I struggled to go to sleep so I put it on one of the gaming channels. Usually IGN does a play through of a random game, usually newer. I like to peek and check out games I don’t plan on buying but I still want to see how they are.
On this particular night, IGN did a play through of the latest in the Life is Strange series. This game is called True Colors. Since I’ve always wondered how the Life is Strange games were, we watched a few minutes. Then it turned into dozens of minutes. Then it turned into a couple of hours.
My wife likes to game but she doesn’t like the intensity or complexity of many of the popular new games. She likes something engaging but with a no-pressure pace so that she can problem solve. I knew that night Life is Strange had her attention.
The next day, I got on the Xbox and decided to download the first episode of the first Life is Strange game. After the download finished and the game loaded, we were ready to play!
This article is going to explore the captivating storytelling of Life is Strange. It left an incredible impression on my wife and myself and I am now hooked on the series. In a way, this serves as my review but I’m not going to bore you about the graphics or mechanics most reviews will nitpick.
Without further ado, let’s do a deep dive into what makes this game stand out and I will also explain why the story made me a major fan of the series.
This is the perfect time of year to explore the main concept of this story. As I currently type this piece, it is the day we rewinded time ourselves, here in the United States, backwards one hour. It’s the whole concept of turning back time to end our observance of Daylight Savings Time.
Ironically, Life Is Strange explores the same concept with its main character in Max Caufield. She is a young adult girl attending an academy to further her photography career. During the first episode of the game, she finds herself in a bathroom and observes one of the classmates ,named Nathan Prescott, get into a verbal conflict about drugs with a blue haired girl. Nathan ends up pulling out a pistol and shooting the blue hair girl with a fatal shot at point blank range.
Max discovers at this moment that she has the ability to rewind time. She ends up saving this blue haired girl and that is how the story really begins.
As you progress through the episodes of the game, you use this ability often. Sometimes, you use your rewinding ability to teleport forward and avoid obstacles. Other times, you have conversations with people and can rewind time and unlock new dialogue options. During many decision making conversations and events of the game, you can rewind after said event and choose a different outcome. Afterward, you can even rewind it again and get whatever outcome you think is best for the situation.
This game explores the question I and many other people have had in our minds. “You know maybe I should have said Option A instead of Option B. I wonder if things would happen different?” Many times, it turns out that you can take multiple paths but still end up in the same conclusion.
This game’s story has two major events going on. First, Max reunites with her friend Chloe (who was the blue haired girl that was shot in episode one) and they tag up to find out what happened to Chloe’s friend Rachel that went missing. The further you play into the episodes, the more you find out that Arcadia Bay has many secrets and people with their own twisted agendas.
Each episode felt satisfying. They would tell a complete phase of the overall story but at the same time, something would always happen at the end that will keep the player wanting to see what happens next.
The other major plot of the game’s story is the fact that Max keeps having visions of this gigantic tornado coming toward the town and ultimately wiping it out. As I was trying to solve what happened to Rachel, I always wondered in the back of my mind about the incoming storm.
Later on in the story, it turns out that Max has the ability to focus on a photograph from the past and travel backward in time to that moment. She tries this and ends up saving Chloe’s father’s life. After his life is saved, the timeline gets changed and Chloe ends up being the one that had a car wreck, not her father. It did not kill her, but it left her paralyzed.
Eventually, Max undoes the branch in time and things are back to normal. Next, they solve the mystery of what happened to Rachel.
When this event happens, we reach the end of the fourth episode. We were quite surprised when the truth was revealed. Keep in mind, I’m trying to cover this at a surface level so that if someone decides to give this game a try, they will be surprised themselves and I won’t have really ruined anything major for them.
In the fifth, last episode, the events pick up to their climax and Max finds herself into major trouble. She uses photographs to travel back and time and try to fix the current events in the past. Also, she even uses a photograph in the past to travel even further back in time.
Just keep in mind all the branches that were created by this timeline manipulation. Doctor Who covers this extensively in its show. The Doctor highly discourages his companions from intervening in events that were meant to happen because just one change can have major implications. It was great to see Life is Strange honor this concept and really make you question the use of these rewinding and time traveling powers.
All of us have entertained the thought of turning back time. After playing this game, I think I’m just fine without that ability. Knowing my luck, I would try to undo something that would have either the same result no matter what, or perhaps I will screw up something else majorly.
Toward the end of the game, the protagonist Max is faced with a very tough binary choice. Either way, she is sacrificing something. You get two options and each option is not exactly black and white.
After my wife and I chose one option, we did not feel like it was the proper ending. So we tried the other option. The second time, it felt like we made the right choice and the game had a proper ending. You can tell the creators of the story have a certain outcome in mind, but I still admire their decision to let the gamer choose either way. Even if they choose the ending that might not have been so optimal and decisive.
Playing this game gave us such a unique experience. It was laid back in terms of pressure and action. Also, it managed to really exercise our brains by solving clues and putting things together in order to get past obstacles. Not to mention, it was fun rewinding conversations and providing new dialogue options in order to get the other characters to give us a unique reaction. Sometimes, they would even help us solve other issues.
One key aspect of this game is that after each episode, it gives you statistics of what other players chose in terms of choices. We were surprised that we were in the minority in terms of what we chose in comparison to other Life is Strange players. It also lets you know of some events you might have skipped and missed out on. That way, when you come back to play the game the second time, you might can pay attention and save extra characters in peril or take care of little things.
As for the story itself, we both think it was great. It was heartwarming to see such a strong bond between Max and Chloe. Also, the story left you wanting to come back for more. The plot had quite a few twists and turns. It was so satisfying making big decisions in the game and seeing them play out in the subsequent episodes. We played through the episodes one more time and would make the opposite choices and it was equally satisfying to see how much things change as you get deeper into the rabbit hole of the decisions you make.
It really reminds me of those “Choose Your Adventure” novels that I would read as a kid. Life is Strange added quite a bit more depth than those and I think that’s what makes it unique.
As we started to play Life is Strange 2, it asks us right at the beginning what decision we made in the first game. We wondered how it would all tie together but there is a sequence in the first episode in Life is Strange 2 and it covers a bit of Arcadia Bay in terms of its own storytelling.
As I type this review, we are two episodes into Life is Strange 2. Normally, I don’t bother writing about sequels and subsequent games but Life is Strange 2 feels like its own unique experience. I’ll write about that game as well when the time comes.
Closing this review, I want to give a massive shout out to Don’t Nod Entertainment for bringing such a unique experience to my gaming library. I really regret not playing this game earlier. Fortunately, my wife and I have a good list of their games to play, such as Life is Strange 2, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, Life is Strange: True Colors, Tell Me Why, and I’m sure they have other games in the works.
My wife is very selective with her gaming choices and Life is Strange is a great choice for people that like the laid-back approach offered by the story driven adventure games. As for myself, I have been gaming for over twenty years, and the story that Life is Strange offers is quite compelling and had my attention the whole way.
Reader, I am going to give this game five stars out of five stars. If you wish to try this game out, you can download the first episode for free and see what you think. Just search “Life is Strange” in whatever platform you choose to download your games. If the story catches your attention, you can buy the rest of the episodes for $20. Absolutely worth it.