LIFE IS STRANGE
Episode One: Chrysalis
Developed by DONTNOD ENTERTAINMENT
Published by Square Enix
PC Steam Review
Also available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Life Is Strange is a story-driven choice and consequence game split into five episodes, the first of which was launched today.
Max is an 18 year old student at Blackwell Academy, Arcadia Bay, Oregon. With a passion for studying photography using her old analog camera, Max leads a quiet life with a keen eye for detail. Whilst in a photography class, she experiences a vision of a violent tornado tearing towards her town, causing utter destruction. Upon waking from this vision and experiencing a terrifying ordeal in the girl’s toilets, she discovers she has the ability to turn back time. Can this power be used for good, to save people’s lives and to fix right the wrongs?
Life Is Strange – Episode One: Chrysalis is mostly set around the academy in which Max attends. It’s here she discovers her new talent and decides to test it out, making enemies and friends along the way with the aid of her ability. It’s not all sweetness though when Max finds herself in some sticky predicaments which is where you, the player, comes in. As the player, you can look at and interact with items and talk to people. Whilst most of the game is set along a rigid script, there are plenty of scenarios where you’ll have to make a decision and choose an answer. Sometimes these answers don’t really matter too much, but some will have game-changing consequences. Max’s ability to roll back time can be used to change the choice if you think you’ve made a mistake, but once you leave that area, your choice is then set in stone to affect the rest of the gameplay.
As with other Square Enix games, the first thing that will strike you about Life Is Strange is the breathtaking graphics. From the opening scene of the tornado from the cliff, the whole atmosphere gave me the chills in such an extraordinary way. I remember thinking “holy shit” at the sight of the natural threat due to its realism and the fact my controller was vibrating too to reinforce the effect, and then when I moved the character of Max towards her destination, which triggered a cutscene, Max too uttered the exact same phrase. The latter scenes in the high school are just as amazing, with brilliant character design and realistic environments.
The voice-over work in LIFE IS STRANGE is excellent with each character convincing with their performance. The script is littered with swear words but that is to be expected. I’d be suspicious if there was a game set in a school without swearing! There’s mild drug references and gun references in the game too, but these themes are only touched upon as part of the script and plot.
Music plays as much a part as the graphics within the game. I particularly liked a part where Max puts on a pair of headphones in the school corridor. The music suddenly kicks in and is quite prominent as you wander about the halls. It’s only until you reach Max’s destination and she removes her headphones that the music stops and takes a backseat. This was a nice touch and showed that DONTNOD have really put the effort and detail into this game.
LIFE IS STRANGE, in many ways, reminds me of Fahrenheit which came out on the PS2 in 2005. That too was focused on interactive movie style gameplay. I believe The Walking Dead game by TellTale is a similar experience but not having played that yet (it’s on my list), I can’t compare.
LIFE IS STRANGE – Episode One: Chrysalis is like a breathe of fresh air: it’s exciting, inventive, stunning and engaging. I was gripped to the screen throughout its 2 hour first episode and the cliffhanger has left me itching for Episode Two which is due out in March. As we are first and foremost a film review website, games that tell a story like this, an interactive episodic experience, was bound to appeal to me but I didn’t know what to expect when I first loaded it up. There’s not a single boring moment and the game is pretty open to explore to keep you busy though it does have some linear sections to it. One aspect that really caught my attention is that time doesn’t really stop in situations within the game, therefore you have to think and act on your feet as time won’t stop for you, such as finding a good hiding spot. If you don’t find one in time, you’re screwed!
I played Life Is Strange using an Xbox 360 Controller for Windows and it works a treat. You can also play with Mouse and Keyboard and unlock achievements and trading cards through Steam.
Life Is Strange is a refreshing piece of gaming media, one that you can easily play but involves your heart and mind more than an ordinary game would require. This is an experience as much as a game, and I can’t wait to see where Episode Two and the following three episodes will take me.