What makes life strange? General teenage angst? A rich kid turning bad or having the ability to turn back time, like a Cher song coming to life. Whatever it is, DontNod Entertainment's episodic thriller, 'Life is Strange' seems to have it all. It's like a teenage soap come to life in interactive form, with a twist that only video games could bring.
As you may have guessed from the opening paragraph, Life is Strange depicts the life of a teenage girl and tugs at our heartstrings as she goes about life, trying to fit in. The twist is that when the game opens, our protagonist, Maxine Caulfield, finds herself fighting through a tornado to reach a lighthouse and as things are about to get really bad, she wakes to find herself in the middle of a college photography class. This all seems a bit strange to her and soon she discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. But was the tornado all a dream?
Life is Strange takes the guise of a interactive adventure, therefore you'll find yourself interactive with the environment and the people around you. What this means is that some of the things you find or do could have a consequence later in the game. So whether you are interacting with people or poking around, it could possibly result in a negative reaction towards Max.
As mentioned, the main mechanic is that Max can rewind time and opt for a different outcome. You can hold down L2 to rewind or tap L1 to automatically go back. Max retains any items she's collected, whether you rewind or not, so using this mechanic you are able to use these items to your advantage, even if the outcome you choose is different the second time around. This can also be used to change your interactions with people, so if you feel your have said the wrong thing or chosen the wrong decision, you can easily go back and try again, although once you leave the area your last chosen action remains.
It does seem that Life is Strange is all about the story, there are puzzles to be had throughout the first episode, but they are hardly difficult to complete. Mainly it just seems to be building a picture and relationship between you and the character, which hopefully will make for more taxing decisions and harder puzzles when the later episodes arrive.
Perhaps what will put you off most about Life is Strange is Chloe Price, Max's childhood best friend. Sporting blue hair and bad girl behaviour, she feels like she's forgotten how to speak, using odd words like 'Hella.' Her part of the the script almost feels like it has been written by a 40 year old who is still trying to pretend he's hip with the kids and knows how they speak. It's quite embarrassing and I feel quite bad for the actress that had to perform these lines.
On the bright side, Life is Strange does look pretty good. The environments are well designed and the character models are fairly realistic. There's nothing groundbreaking in terms of graphics, but there is enough to draw you in when combined with the story, which certainly has some interesting moments.
Episode one of Life is Strange is a compelling tale, but it's not really strong enough to leave you hanging for the next episode. It feels like a light introduction for what's to come, but if episode two fails to deliver I can't really see people being interested in the rest. At the moment though it deserves a look. Let's just hope that there's a little more depth and excitement when the next episode arrives this March.
Words by Joe Anderson
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/XBLA: wotta
(Version Tested: Xbox One)
+ Interesting rewind mechanic
+ Story is good in places
+ Looks great
- Chloe is really annoying
- Light on action