I stared intently at my screen as I gripped my controller tightly, dialogue choices flashing in front of my eyes. My mind flooded with “what ifs”. I was at a loss, but I had to make a decision, I had to do what I thought was morally correct. Of course, this happened often in Life Is Strange. The impossible judgments you’re forced to make leave you in a perpetual hope of “oh gosh, I hope I did the right thing. I really hope I did the right thing.” That’s what shaped this game into such an invigorating experience, at least at first.
The protagonist is Max Caulfield, an aspiring photographer who is attending the prestigious Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay. Within moments, Max becomes aware of this freaky superpower where she can rewind time after saving Chloe, an old friend from the past. Rekindling their friendship, Max and Chloe begin to unveil the alarming truths about Arcadia Bay and search for answers regarding Rachel Amber, a missing girl. Little does the dynamic duo know that the reality is more twisted than they could ever imagine.
Produced as an episodic drama, the impatience that raged through my soul awaiting the next episode’s release made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. It was torturous, for each episode was left with a cliffhanger of sorts. My mind was flooded with questions and I was grasping for answers that weren’t in my reach. Trust me,it will almost drive you mad.
Despite the eagerness that nearly consumed me, I admired plenty of other aspects that shaped Life Is Strange. For example, the unique art style instantly caught my attention. The textures seen in game were entirely hand-painted, creating an artistic environment for you. I found the graphical interface meshed well with photography being a prevalent aspect of the storyline. Along with its distinctive art style, I also noticed the indie soundtrack harmonized flawlessly with the emotions conveyed during certain scenes. Hell, most of the songs played are definitely part of my playlist now. For example, Max leans against a wall in a crowded hallway, listening to classmates talking over one another. She simply puts in her earbuds and the sound of chatter fades as her music absorbs the game’s noise.
When a game has a worthy soundtrack that corresponds so well with the feeling it transmits, it makes the experience that much better.
Being a fan of decision-based games, Life Is Strange happened to be one of the more distinctive titles that features player choice. Burdened with constant suspicions such as the disappearance of Rachel Amber leaves you pondering a series of questions, one being–“Did I do or say the right thing?” Whether it’s something as simplistic as choosing to answer a phone call from a friend in need or reporting a troubled student to the principal, you’ll have to decide what’s important. Max’s inner monologue even questions her decisions, causing you to rethink your choices and making good use of her ability to rewind time. Sure, there will be moments when you’ll be brushing off your shoulders, thinking you’ve got it all figured out and you’ve done everything right, but when you discover you’re wrong (which you certainly will), theories become building blocks in your mind and you’re a lost little puppy all over again.
Like most episodic games, episode one of Life Is Strange welcomes players into Arcadia Bay, where words like “hella” are mainstream– catchy, isn’t it? It commences with Max walking down a path through a darkened forest, forceful wind and rain fighting against her. She approaches an opening ahead, noticing an enormous gusting tornado heading for Arcadia Bay. That certainly can’t be good.
Moments later, Max awakens in a classroom to the voice of her teacher, the admirable Mr. Jefferson, lecturing students on the history of photography. Scoping the room you discover what appears to be the typical modern teen drama — cliquey rich students sticking up their snotty noses to anyone that comes across as “less than adequate.” You’re introduced to Nathan Prescott and Victoria Chase early on, who happen to be two not-so-lovely teenagers that raise suspicion on the happenings at Blackwell Academy. Following their appearance, Max encounters Chloe, her childhood best friend (though it wasn’t pleasant how they were reunited).
Victoria is the stereotypical “mean girl” that boasts about her excellence, but is fairly insecure. You’ll discover she is quite the gossiper, spreading rumors like fire around Blackwell Academy. She is close friends with Nathan, the rich and spoiled son of the influential Prescott family. He appears to be aggressive, but also anxious and unstable.
And then there’s blue-haired reckless Chloe, who becomes Max’s number one sidekick. Instantly, you’ll recognize her rebellious ways due to traumatic past events. Though she may seem selfish and insensitive at times, she is always there when Max is in a bind, and boy, does she find herself in them often.
With Max’s ability to rewind time and alter the course of history, we can only imagine that not only is life crazy strange for Max, but a rollercoaster of emotions. I mean, could you imagine finding out one day that you could rewind time? It raises the question: what would you change? Personally, acquiring such a power would be overwhelming, to say the least. Not so much for Max, though. With her character first portrayed as quiet and awkward and then later fearless and outspoken, the change in Max is recognizable within each episode.
Though Max may be heroic and saving lives, rewinding time to alter destiny will still bear its consequences. Well, they were supposed to anyway. Whether it’s being nice to Victoria after paint gets splattered all over her cashmere (not the cashmere!), or talking someone out of ending their life, the choice is entirely yours. If you want to befriend everyone and keep rewinding time to make sure you say all the right things, then all the power to you. If you want to give everyone the cold shoulder, go for it.
See, I had this whole idea in my head that all the choices I made would alter my outcome, but I was fairly disappointed to find out that I was wrong (again).
When the final episode of Life Is Strange was finally released (which was definitely the most bizarre of them all), I was on the edge of my seat, completely unsure of what I was about to endure. I wanted all of my questioning to be laid to rest, but sadly, the inquiring continued. Why did I bother to talk Kate out of jumping off of the building or save Alyssa from countless bad luck scenarios? What was the deal with the deer spirit that guided my path? How did Max acquire the ability to reverse time? I asked these questions because when I reached the final part of episode five, your decisions didn’t really make much of a difference. There were slight changes in character dialogue, but nothing drastic.
The conclusion of Life Is Strange was to choose one of two accessible endings (which I won’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t played episode five quite yet.) I remember sitting there and thinking… that’s it? Maybe I expected too much from the finale, but maybe I deserved to expect more. Don’t get me wrong, Life Is Strange is an incredible game and the idea of modifying fate and creating alternate realities is fascinating, but so much still remains unresolved.
All things considered, Life Is Strange is still a commendable game. There’s much I admired about its originality and the common plot twists that put my head in spin, but its conclusion wasn’t all I wanted (and more.) Despite the fact that the finale wasn’t completely satisfactory on my terms, it still indeed makes it known that life sure can be hella strange.
A PC copy of Life Is Strange was purchased by the reviewer. To learn more about our score, read our review policy.