Video Game Recommendation: “Life is Strange”

“I know this has been a stressful day.”
Ray Wells in “Life is Strange”

Recently I stumbled upon a game that does almost everything right and which I highly recommend: “Life is Strange“. It a very well done graphic adventure.

The story follows Max, a photography student who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. She rekindles a childhood friendship, which, combined with a missing girl, bullying, drugs, suicide (attempt), assisted suicide, losing one’s father, murder, and a couple of other of mankind’s uglier sides, results in a really great story.

Seriously, it’s one of those games which doesn’t shrink from serious topics but also has enough sweet moments to get you through the game. Some impressions (spoilers):

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The “joy” of visiting a school (well, an academy).
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The story gets logged in a nice journal.
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The journal also contains character infos.
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Some collectibles: 10 photos per episode. It would have been nice if these would also serve as savepoints, but, at least on the PS4, you only have three of them. You can go back to earlier moments of the game though.
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Despite the often serious nature of the topics addressed in the game, there are nice, restorative moments.
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Bullying is one of the topics addressed in the game. Love Max’s comment on the “bullying prevention” posters (not shown here).
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The story is usually supported by some photos.
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Oldie but Goldie — an instant camera.
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Yes, there is a moment where you can decide to assist someone in committing suicide (even after saving another person from committing suicide earlier).
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Let’s just say the main character has some rotten experiences … multiple times.

There are only three things I really did dislike:

  1. Some of the interaction between Max and Chloe seemed forced, like there was an agenda the creators had beyond telling a good story. Esp. when you leave best friends territory and move towards a love relationship. Then again, Chloe isn’t my type (damn, I’m getting old 😉 ).
  2. The photos in the dark room. Seriously, I’d expect a higher quality of images. The poses were … uninspired and not very creative. Sick, but below what you’d expect from a person who knows how to use a camera (see last image above). And yeah, that’s the amateur photographer speaking in me.
  3. The ending. One of the two endings was a rush-job without new music and it lacks closure (reminded me of Mass Effect 3). The main (“good”) ending was heart-breaking and terrible to watch. So that was well done. But I miss a third one: Go back in time and squash the butterfly after taking the photo (in case it has no effect). I mean, hey, Max could feel the air move around it (or the like), I’d kill it just to make sure this thing didn’t start the tornado. Of course, if that butterfly did give you the power (combined with the extreme emotional reaction of seeing someone shot), Chloe will die as well.

But besides these minor issues (all in episode 5) the game was … breathtaking. Plus it has some of the best music I’ve heard in a game. Esp. the music at the beginning of episode one and two, and the end music if you go for the good ending and save the bay. And there are a lot of sweet moments. And a lot of nice details. 🙂

And regarding the more negative topics, for example, suicide (attempt) compared with assisted suicide (your choice). Waow.

Although I think the developers chicken out a little regarding the assisted suicide, given [MAJOR SPOILER] that you have no choice but to change time after this experience. It would have been very “interesting” to see what would have happened if Max’s powers would have failed after making the decision. Seeing, for example, how the parents would have reacted if they enter the room and find out that Max just killed their child. And what would have happened afterwards. There are a lot of things that tells you to give her the morphine (e.g., failing respiratory system, her loneliness, the huge financial pressure her parents are under, etc. pp.). But you only met her again the day before and while it’s a very understandable decision (I didn’t hesitate to give her the morphine), I seriously wonder what a more comprehensive look would have shown. But anyway, very well done — and it gets you thinking why you’d be willing to help one person kill herself, but do everything in your power to save another person from doing the same. (And yeah, I think it’s the difference between a calm decision when you have no other options and being pressure to do so.)

So, yeah, a really good game — for it’s courage to look at ugly issues and let the main character suffer. And at the same time for all the sweet moments that let you make it through the game.

Highly recommended.

 

Update (2015-12-14): Having finished the game a second time, I can only repeat my recommendation. Love the attention to detail. For example, in the alternate reality it seems like going with her classmate to the hospital to visit her mother made Max the queen bee, which in turn made Victoria act super-nice to her. A nice example of “the followers make the leader”. And if you want to kill the queen bee, you have to get the followers first.

And yup, still would have love a couple of other things, e.g., it still would have been nice if you could have used the photos in the journal as save points, or use the ones on her room wall. Or if during the abduction the drugs would have made her rewind uncontrollably until the sum of the repeated episodes would have changed something in her look, which in turn would have changed something in the situation (to go for the ultimate nightmare, just imagine the worst moments of your life repeating over and over again).

But yeah, highly recommended.

2 Comments

  1. Sounds very interesting!
    Too bad it’s not yet made for OS X but it’s not a surprise.
    Thank you

  2. Yep, that’s the usual problem with great games (like “Witcher 3”, “Life is Strange”, and the like). One reason I love my PS4 — sure, it’s shifting bits and bytes, but it’s also instant escapism when I need it. And, as one advertisement once said, you can live many lives.

    (Also love the attention to detail in the story, or in other games.)

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