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Life is Strange Review

Editors Note: Having previously reviewed each episode separately, we have now compiled them together to enable you to read the review as one.

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.

Episode Two

Previously on our Life is Strange Review, we told you how the game depicts the life of a teenage girl and tugs at our heartstrings as she goes about life, trying to fit in. We also told you about the twists as Max found herself fighting through a tornado, as well as trying to help others fight through the problems that being a teenager at high school brings.

In Episode Two, developer DontNod Entertainment takes the teen angst up a notch, while providing less focus on the tornado which Max is convinced will soon destroy the town. It's a pretty intense episode all, which is quite hard to talk about without spoilers. Episode Two certainly gives Max some tough choices, she has to help out a friend in need, while also trying to satisfy her friendship with Chloe Price, her blue haired childhood 'Hella' best friend, whom we met in the last episode.

There are a lot of tough choices to make in this latest episode and it really plays on the turn back time element of the game. Concentration is of the essence as you try to prove to Chloe that you have these powers by watching events and then rewinding time and predicting the future before her very eyes. This results in you going off with Chloe to shoot a gun at a junk yard and from here things really kick off with two pretty major events having you try to remember everything that went on previously and coming back to haunt you if you made the wrong decisions.

That's the thing about Life is Strange though, actions really do have consequences. Often you'll make a decision and then instantly regret it, but the great thing is that you can rewind time before you move on. So as long as you are confident about your decision, you can then leave the area, at which point the decision is set in stone. Any decisions you do make will come back later in the game, for instance in one scene I had Max clear some graffiti from a mirror and because of this, when she entered her dorm the person responsible had got their own back. There are much more life changing decisions throughout this episode of course, but often even little decisions like not answering a telephone can have major repercussions.

Near the end of the episode there was certainly decisions I wish I hadn't made, therefore I was being extra careful when in the last scene. Episode Three will certainly be an interesting one for me and obviously it'll be too late to change any decisions I made previously. What a difference an episode make though as while I could certainly see the potential in Episode One, this latest release really steps things up a notch. The decisions and time rewinding ability really come into their own, but so does the story and all of a sudden I can't wait to find out what happens next, it almost seems a shame the game is episodic as I really want to play now.

Life is Strange Episode Two is a good one, so good that I'd recommend grabbing the season pass and checking out both the episodes released so far for yourself. I get the feeling that this game is only going to get better and better, so don't miss out.

Episode 3

Previously on our Life is Strange Episode Two Review, we told you how the episode provided less focus on the tornado which Max is convinced will soon destroy the town and instead focused a lot more on the turn back time element of the game. To add to this, Episode Two also tugged at your heart strings with an ending that was tough to take and in this respect, Episode Three continues where the last one left off.

In Episode Three, the focus switches to the school as Max and Chloe try to figure out what happened to cause a girl to jump to her death and find out any reason at all as to where Chloe’s long lost friend got to. It’s a episode with a lot of tension, although for me it had some frustration too as I couldn’t figure out a rather simple puzzle at the start of the game. If only I’d remembered about the rewind ability sooner, I would have saved myself a lot of time.

As mentioned, a lot of the focus in Episode Three surrounds the school, this generally involves sneaking around, looking for items and rewinding time in a fashion that you’ll now be accustomed too. Utilising the rewind ability well is crucial in this episode, as otherwise you’ll end up not getting very far. It’s certainly a tense part of the story as you find out more on what you are looking for, although it’s perhaps a notch down from Episode Two in terms of action and tough choices.

While in the last episode, actions had major consequences, in Episode Three it often feels more like the developer is filling in the story and building up to something big and while the twist does eventually come, on this occasion it felt like it took a long time to get there.

So what is the twist? Well it comes in the form of a new power for Max and it’s quite brilliant, although I’m inclined not to talk about it in this review as I feel that it will play a major part in Episode Four, so I’ll leave the mystery alive should you be planning to check out this Episode for yourself. Let’s just say that it is a rather major power and that it’s going to have consequences that will make your previously decisions feel almost irrelevant.

Life is Strange Episode Three continues the good form of the series so far. It’s fair to say that it feels a little slower paced than the previous episode, however the story it tells is crucial to what has gone on so far and what is to come. As I mentioned in the last review, if you are yet to play then I'd recommend grabbing the season pass and checking out all the episodes released so far, because I have a feeling that Episodes Four to Six are really going to step things up a notch and based on what I have played so far, this is a story you don’t want to miss.

Episode Four

Last time in our Life is Strange review we revealed how a new ability came into play, allowing Max to enter into a photograph and change the past. This has big implications at the start of this latest episode, although there's a lot more intense goings on as the episode progresses.

With the story coming to a conclusion, we finally begin to understand some of the strange goings on, although things don't entirely play out to plan for our heroes as they go through more in one night than any teenager should have to go through in their entire lives.

As always there is a lot of tough decisions to be made and while you may have to think long and hard about the implications, hopefully you'll manage to do the right thing and keep everyone safe. 

In this episode there are many different locations to visit as Max and Chloe wrap up the final clues in order to find out the whereabouts of Rachel. This will see you sneaking into Nathan's dorm, visiting a drug dealer and solving some clues, which then lead Max and Chloe to all manner of new and strange places, although that doesn't mean that they have all the facts, as much as they'd like to think they do.

As in the last episode there is a rather large twist near the end, which I like to think I saw coming, however nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems and with the earth spawning two moons ahead of the disco at the Vortex Club and the fact that whales are lying all over the beach, the chances are that some sort of apocalypse may happen before Max and Chloe fully solve the mystery of their missing friend Rachel.

With the story coming to an end, after a slow start, Episode Four really steps up the intensity, making for some pretty heart in mouth moments which will have you making quick and important decisions. The rewind powers still come into effect quite a few times within the this episode, however Max can't always count on her powers, as you will soon find out.

Episode 5

Given the potential for spoilers we decided not to review Episode 5 of Life is Strange, instead opting to provide a complete play through of or experience on twitter. By this point in the story it was about wrapping things up, although there are a lot of major decisions still to be made, many of which come back from the previous episodes, while a few are also made here.

Whatever decisions you decide to make, Life is Strange is probably the first game of its kind to really offer scenarios that truly chance the course of the game and how it will conclude. Nowhere is that more visible than in Episode Five.

Life is Strange is a truly wonderful game that tackles many complex subjects and tackles them well. It's a title which is full of emotion and quite frankly difficult decisions which you will often feel moved by. We can't recommend it highly enough, it's a marker for episodic titles and hopefully the game other developers will refer too when creating games such as this in the future.

Words by Joe Anderson
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/XBLA: wotta

(Version Tested: Xbox One)


+ Interesting rewind mechanic
+ Story is fantastic
+ Looks great


- Chloe is annoying (to us anyway, it's a matter of opinion)

Edited On 19 Jan, 2016

( 5 )
Turniplord's avatar
Turniplord 9 months ago
Love the con: Chloe is really annoying - should be Chloe is hella annoying
Anonymous user's avatar
PHILIP 9 months ago
Nothing worse than an annoying protaganist in a game. I watched my friend play Sunset Overdrive when he got his Xboxone and I said to him within the hour of watching him play it I could not play this even if I liked it as I can't stand the main character.
Joe Anderson (Editor)'s avatar
Joe Anderson (Editor) 9 months ago
Chloe isn't the hero, Maxine is, so it's not too bad.
Turniplord's avatar
Turniplord 9 months ago
Personally, If you like story based games that actually carry choices through the episodes (more than the TT games that are pretty bad now) then I highly recommend this game. Plus it makes you work for your achievements/trophies rather than just giving you them all for simply progressing. (example of how bad TT got, playing Walking dead s2e3 the other day. I had literally 10 mins of QTE/Movement - other than that, the whole episode was just a story that i let run with no input off me at all!)
Anonymous user's avatar
PHILIP 9 months ago
Oh... I do want this game as its had some great reviews..

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