Thursday, February 5, 2015

Life is Strange: Video Game Review (Episode #1)

Sometimes a game comes out and you just know it's a good fit. As soon as I saw the trailer for this game, I could tell it was something I would enjoy. I'm a big fan of Telltale Games and the episodic format, plus I enjoy storytelling and narrative games, such as Heavy Rain and Gone Home.

Life is Strange is a multi-platform episodic game from Dontnod Entertainment and Square Enix that just came out, and it's beautifully refreshing. This is definitely a different kind of game, relying far more on narrative than action, but it's incredibly immersive in just a few hours.

In this game, you play Max, a high school senior who moved away from her small Oregon town five years ago to live in Seattle. Now she's back to finish her senior year at the special elite academy in town, where her idol, a famous photographer, teaches art and photography.

The game opens with a storm. Max is standing in the woods, desperate to reach the lighthouse. You are tossed right into the action, but again, this isn't Resident Evil. You won't die in the first few minutes if you don't find a weapon. Instead, you get your bearings and try to figure out what's happening.

I really don't want to tell you anything about this story itself, because that's the beauty of it. Suffice it to say that the storm isn't real - or maybe it is - and we are quickly brought into Max's real life. Her life is full of typical high school issues - bullying, the mean girls, feeling alone, not knowing what to do with her life, awkward friendships that may be more or may not even be real friendships, and a great deal of self-absorption. What's great is that I feel like this story is going to play to its strengths in that way; while Max is making decisions that are right for her, there are consequences to every choice.

Early in the game, we realize this is not just ordinary life, though. Max has the ability to rewind time, which she can use to help people, and also to manipulate others into giving her information or into making a choice and then changing her mind, getting the benefits of the choice and result without the long-term consequences. Even something as simple as how she flirts with her skater boy crush becomes a major decision.

Throughout the game, Max can take pictures and she updates her journal, so you can pause to read her notes and learn about the characters she's interacting with. I didn't get all the achievements for the first playthrough and fully intend to create a few saves so when the second episode comes in March, I (like Max) can decide which path is the one I want to follow.

Another major bonus of this game is the music. I cannot think of a better soundtrack for a game. I have been listening to the song in the trailer from Syd Matters on YouTube. There are several moments that are filled with songs, and they are always fitting. The music definitely enhances the mood and if you're not young enough to still remember high school vividly, it helps bring back that feeling of angst and fear that can be so prevalent.

I really can't say anything bad about this game, although if I had to name one fault, I would say that some of the dialogue feels forced. I don't know too many high school kids who still say "hella," but this was made in France. Maybe they do!

Seriously, go check out this game! It's not a shooter or anything, so if you are looking for action, it's not for you. However, gamers with broad interests will love this and nongamers will likely discover that gaming is about so much more than plumbers and alien attacks.

No comments:

Post a Comment