Being a teenager sucked sometimes during high school. Many peers were hurtful, classes were tough and it was full of heartbreak. How would you feel if you had the ability to go back in time and relive those moments and change the outcome? Dealing with classmates wouldn’t be as bad, tests would be a piece of cake and in terms of relationships, breakups could be avoidable. Life is Strange hands us this ability and uses it in a near perfect way.
We play as Max Caulfield, she attends Blackwall Academy in her hometown. She hasn’t been back in five years after suddenly moving to Seattle with her family, but this prestigious school is tempting enough for her to return. After turning 18, Max assumes life at Blackwall will be an adult experience, but through diary entries we start to see how life there truly is. She doesn’t have many friends, but the halls are filled with students ready to cause trouble in Max’s already complicated life.
After a dangerous encounter, Max discovers that she can travel back in time. As the player, we can use her power to our advantage and this is where Life Is Strange becomes an interesting game. Games like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us give us choices that must be answered fairly quickly. We usually answer on a whim and sometimes instantly regret these decisions. Life Is Strange gets rid of the time limit and instead lets us play out these choices as we see fit.
For example, there is a scene where a security guard starts harassing a student. We have the option to catch the officer in the act by snapping a picture or we can intervene and help Max’s friend. Reversing time adds an interesting dynamic in terms of decision making. We can see how both choices play out and choose the “better” option. There actually is a lot of strategy because you never know the long term consequences of your choices, just the immediate results. What seems good now could be disastrous later on. One of the more clever time travel features is the fact that Max can retain information she comes across even after reversing time. It brings up extended dialogue features and can help expand knowledge of those around you.
Life Is Strange is so rich in detail that it took me a while to even play the game. Max has an extensive diary including entries about the students in the Academy that we can browse through in order to understand every aspect of our character. Diving into Max’s backstory helps us sympathize and relate to her struggles. Life Is Strange excels because of the strong details in the story. The visuals aren’t always the best, but they compliment the world established in the game. Every step I took in Arcadia Bay felt believable. For a few hours, I thought I was a resident of that town.
Unlike Telltale’s games, I never experienced any slowdowns. Life Is Strange ran fluidly. That was a breath of fresh air because many recent releases came with a handful of bugs. I couldn’t find something about the game that I hated. I adored the two main characters and even while hating certain characters (that we should hate), I couldn’t help loving how well developed they all were. Every character brought something interesting into Life Is Strange.
Halfway through the episode 1, I tried to figure out where the game would go for 4 more episodes, but then suddenly the game brings in the main conflict. While I can’t talk about it due to major spoilers, the writing team sets up an intriguing story that I’m eager to experience. Life Is Strange episode 1 was about 4 hours long and it was some of the best 4 hours I’ve spent in recent memory. The environments drew me in, the interactions kept me engaged, but the character dynamic led by main character Max connected me on a personal level. Life Is Strange is a very personal game. There is something for every player to find and it will affect players differently, but Life Is Strange succeeds in being a unique experience in a world of too many “clones”. The wait until March for episode 2 will be rough, but I will patiently await to continue my journey with Max. It may have been short, but Life is Strange accomplished its goal of being a gripping and engaging experience.