Life Is Strange: Review - Games Weekly

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Life Is Strange: Review

There’s a reason you don’t see superpowers in teen dramas very often. The best of their kind use humdrum, relatable settings to cloak important messages, like the perils of drugs or the horrors of domestic abuse. Imagine if Chad Michael Murray began One Tree Hill with bionic legs, or Aunt Viv from Fresh Prince had the power to kill with her mind. You just wouldn’t be concentrating on the fact that you were being taught a lesson if you were waiting for Seth Cohen to reap more souls.


Which is why Life Is Strange faces something of an uphill struggle. The new Telltale-alike episodic adventure tells the story of max, an 18-year-old loner who’s returned to her hometown with a scholarship to a prestigious arts academy. She encounters bullying, broken families, drugs, extortion, and at least two characters who, worryingly, refer to themselves only in the third person. She also develops the ability to reverse time and appears to be having visions of a terrible natural disaster. It’s the latter you end up focusing on, unsurprisingly.
“Rewind time after Witnessing an accidental death to avert that particular disaster”
It’s admirable to see Dontnod tackling the high school drama as a game, but max’s newfound powers inject as many problems as they do new life. as a mechanic, reversing time is a great choice learning information and returning to an earlier conversation to prove yourself to someone, scare them into talking more, or simply show off, is neat, and it allows for some satisfying puzzles. after witnessing an accidental death, for instance, you can rewind and hit the fire alarm, evacuating the building and averting that particular disaster.

Re-player one
But, as with most superpowers, it leads to maddening plot holes, too While she can use her ability at almost any time, max can only back up to the arbitrary beginning of the scene she’s in. after the fire alarm incident, she’s questioned furiously by the school’s principal, with all outcomes leading to more problems. You’d think she would just reverse time again and find a new way to stop the original problem in a less troublesome manner, but you’re stuck, for no reason.

It’s mechanically sound, but the writing simply isn’t good enough a problem that extends across the entire debut episode. characters fall into some almost hilariously clichéd categories: troubled army vet security guard, janitor with learning difficulties, even a hip, GQ model photography teacher who explains, in detail, the history of the selfie.

The game’s maddeningly obsessed with showing off its reference points. max falls into the rare camp of protagonist who you’ll dislike the more you get to know her read her diary and you’ll find ray Bradbury and Battle royale mentioned, for almost no reason, within a single sentence. It’s like someone mixed up Juno, Scott Pilgrim and a wet blanket.

This isn’t to say things can’t pick up from here: there are enough characters and loose ends to craft something far more substantial. Time-reversal is an excellent way to avoid choice-regret while giving players more of a challenge. The problem Dontnod faces is in making all of this worthwhile superpowers make a lot of things easier, but they rarely make you any more likable.

6.5/10

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