If the Telltale games are the gritty shows only on premium channels, then Life is Strange is that indie movie people won’t see because it’s too pretentious. The obvious thing to do when playing Life is Strange is to compare it to the multiple series of games that Telltale have created over the past couple of years. While Telltales games feature gore and morbid outcomes, Life is Strange is more of a angsty teenager story of coming to adulthood. It can be honest and stressful but you know there is a message coming from it that isn’t “Everything sucks” even if the characters in the story say as much.
Life is Strange sees you play a shy student Max who has moved back to her hometown from Seattle to enroll in a Photography course at College. The inclusion of her love of photography shows Maxine’s only real passion in her life. She’s quiet, afraid to stand up to anything or anyone around her. Her power comes when she has a camera in her hand and although you cannot freely use the camera, it adds a nice layer to the world that’s created as moments of visual beauty is brought to your attention.
Walking around the college, you see the different types of people from the dude-bros to the prissy rich kids, to the quiet outcasts. Not everyone you expect to be vigilant and nice is and vice-versa. Trying to figure all this out as a young adult is tough and thus Life is Strange as the name becomes adapt.
Why it’s called Life is Strange is the fact that Maxine finds out after a trip to the bathroom and witnessing a horrible event, she can then rewind time. You utilise this for the smallest dialogue changes and huge physical moments.
Where the Telltale games give you choice and then you must deal with the consequences, Life is Strange also features consequences but a lot of the time you can rewind time and change your dialogue as well as create new dialogue from what you’ve picked up in the conversation with the people before rewinding time.
Time is shown on a on a winding line in the top corner with actions being marked with a circle showing when it happened and so you can rewind without undoing everything. It’s interesting to say the least but unsure at how impactful it will be to the entire series.
A lot of the first episode is setup naturally. You learn about Max, the college, the students in her class and college, and then Chloe. Chloe is her best friend when she lived in Arcadia, Oregon. After leaving five years ago, Max never got in touch even though Chloe was going through a tough time and catching up becomes a major part of the first episode.
It feels like an exciting start for an episodic game that isn’t based on a franchise and by a developer that truly deserves that slot after Remember Me was underappreciated. There are a numbers of questions raised when the credits for episode 1 rolled like how the rewind feature will be implemented for future episodes as the narrative becomes most intense and dramatically naturally. How will the characters you meet in episode one impact the rest of the series which sees a massive storm coming to the town.
One of the nicest treats about Life is Strange is the place itself. You enjoy walking around the campus, seeing other characters and maybe talking to some of them. As you walk around you may get text messages from other characters which makes it all feel more authentic, even if the texts play out automatically when you open it.
There’s plenty of genres and influences throughout Life is Strange. It’s a playable indie movie with college drama and some supernatural elements. The presentation is excellent and although it didn’t make me ache for the next episode, I will be happy to see episode two become available in March just to see where they’ll go with the story now the things have been structured. A good start.