From the uninspired and outwardly unsophisticated titling of this game, you’d be tempted to judge a book by its cover and immediately write off Life is Strange as the gaming equivalent of your thirteen year old sister’s disturbingly tedious diary or the sequel to a dreadful Hilary Duff movie. Thankfully, Life is Strange has not lived up to its name and is easily the best game I’ve played this year.
Life is Strange is an episodic game that follows Max – a budding photographer, around her day to day life in a new school. So far, so Hilary Duff. But wait! There’s more! Max can rewind time; which fits in very neatly with the heavy focus on player choice throughout the story. One of the great features of the game play is that as well as the obvious big decisions that the character is faced with, there are also a number of seemingly inconsequential choices to be made that keep you guessing as to how you they will end up shaping the story. This prevents the common feeling that that you are picking the options that you know will inevitably lead to a certain outcome (a trend that seems to be rife in similar games).
Despite the protagonist’s apparently obsessive compulsive need to point out the blatantly obvious at random intervals, the dialogue is well written and the characters were convincing enough to hold my extremely limited attention span for the entirety of the chapter. Which is no easy feat. This, alongside the artwork and general romantic air of the graphics, gives Life is Strange an element that is often missing from dramatic mystery-simulators: addictiveness (yes that is a word; you don’t need to waste time googling it). This game is downright captivating; if it was in book form you’d say it was un-put-down-able (no, that one isn’t a real word). And this remains true, even if one of the lead characters was created with an apparent lack of self-awareness that has permitted her to use words like ‘hella’ in complete earnestness and without even the hint of a cringe crossing her handsomely drawn face.
Nevertheless, I have read an abundance of articles from other sites that feel quite the opposite. And to those who have slated the characters as being akin to something straight out of a sickeningly teenage Disney show, I have one thing to say to you: Life is Strange is a grower not a shower, okay?! Leave it alone and stop teasing it. Like any good film or book, it would be bizarre and frankly boring if the introduction to the story was better than what followed. Characters are infinitely more relatable and ‘real’ once you’ve had time to become attached to them and learn more about them. This is means you have a great excuse to sit in front of your computer all day and play Life is Strange over and over again until you feel you have so closely bonded with every character, you can’t separate yourself from reality anymore and can no longer function in the normal world.
In order to help you with this endeavour, there are three save slots so as long as you can keep your mum and the cat off of the computer/console for the next few months, you could easily play three different versions of the game simultaneously with different decisions being made in each. Which is invariably handy because there are 7 weeks between the release of each chapter, which would mean you’d have to have the patience of well pretty much any Half Life fan to replay every set of choices each time a new chapter comes out.
The eagerly awaited chapter 2 was released this week – so what are you waiting for?!