Life is Strange has seen quite the hype since it’s first episode came out in early 2015. I really wondered why, since at first glance it’s basically a cheesy highschool teenie drama with a grain of time travel. To this day I still kind of refuse to even call something like it a game, since from a gameplay perspective it is merely a walk-and-click-things simulator.
And Life is Strange certainly is all of that. But oh, so much more. It is an interactive storytelling masterpiece, creating a world which, although artificial, feels vibrant and alive, inhabitated by distinctive characters that the player grows to care for deeply. The fact that its directors (spoilers!) have roots in classic film and animation is easy to see by the sheer quality and almost obsessed attention to detail in which the story is presented. The framing, camera moves and rhythm of the shots, the subliminal visual messages, the masterful cut to music. Definitely more games should use licensed songs. Its melancholic soundtrack, combined with the stylized visuals and the gripping story, it just bleeds emotion. The voice acting is excellent and gives each character a recognizable sound and temper.
The game touches on a lot of uncomfortable topics like (cyber) bullying, euthanasia, domestic abuse, homosexuality, suicide and the slow demise of childhood friendship as people grow older (and apart). Yet it manages to present this in a serious and non-lecturing way, which is possibly one of the hardest things to not fuck-up. The french developers at DONTNOD have been very bold and I am positively surprised that a large publisher like Square Enix supported this kind of project (they were also the only publisher not insisting on a male protagonist). Sometimes it’s worth to take a risk.
I also enjoyed that the game let’s you take your time. It never pushes you to quickly decide and of course the rewind-time feature let’s you go back and choose other options if you feel you decided wrong in the first try. This works surprisingly well.
Not everything is perfect, of course. Some of the riddles you have to solve or the tasks that need to be accomplished are boring or repetitive (collect x of that). Some of the dialog seems strange (Wowzers! Are you cereal?), I guess that’s what happens when french people try to make a game that takes place in a small town in the american north-west. The facial animation is rather deadpan and lacking behind the technological state of art.
Still, I can say with confidence that Life is Strange is one of the best
games interactive movies I have ever played since I started gaming. If you are going to play only one thing this year, give this one a try, you will not regret it.
Ok, enough praise for today. I wholeheartedly recommend to check out the trailer and even more so, the soundtrack (hint: it’s awesome).