I’ve never been one to get into hanging around for a weekly episode of a TV show. When there’s a series that I’m interested in I tend to wait until the whole season is available, which I’ll then download buy and binge watch. The same habit has translated into games too, and I’ll happily wait several months for a game to see a full release rather than picking at the individual episodes. I simply don’t have the patience to hang around for the next installment, and I inevitably lose interest in the title. However, I think Life Is Strange may become an exception to my rule.
In Life Is Strange you play as Max Caulfield, a talented photographer and shy and introverted teenager, who has recently started attending Blackwell Academy. After a traumatic event that culminates with the shooting of a school friend, Max discovers she has the ability to rewind time. Coupled with strange visions of Arcadia Bay, the setting for the story, being destroyed by apocalyptic weather, we are quickly given the impression that Max is a very special, yet troubled person.
Arcadia Bay is harbouring problems of it’s own. Despite looking idyllic on the surface, the opening episode gives us glimpses of the town’s dark underbelly, from drug dealing over-privileged high school jocks to violent security guards. A pall has also been cast over the town by the disappearance of popular school girl Rachel Amber, and posters asking for any information are dotted throughout the environments you visit as a reminder of this tragedy.
The core gameplay will see you controlling Max and interacting with objects or people to advance the story. Her ability to rewind time is used numerous times and to great effect. Rather than simply giving you an opportunity to do something different to see what plays out better, after reversing time Max can still be blessed with the knowledge of what she learns in the first instance. This can help her give a ‘better’ answer to a question, or to manipulate the environment around her in order to create a diversion.
Whilst nothing special to write home about graphically, it’s entirely passable, and the environments are well designed and believable, for example Blackwell does give the impression of accurately representing an American high school. The score is superb though, with gentle acoustic guitar carrying you through the game.
As strong as the title is, there’s some moments in the writing which are phenomenally cringe-inducing. The worst offender for these crimes against writing is Chloe, a character seemingly pieced together with a ‘Build Your Own Rebellious Teenager Kit’, who drops clangers such as “Fuck yourself-ie,” and “Are you cereal?”, both of which caused my body to physically contort. Similarly, some of the characters fall slightly too neatly into generic high school drama brackets. Aside from the aforementioned Chloe, we also tick boxes off for spoilt jock and bitchy, Mean Girls-esque female characters.
Despite this criticism, episode 1, Chrysalis, is a very strong start to Life Is Strange’s story. Max’s abilities open a raft of possibilities in future installments, plus there’s a significant amount of intrigue generated by the motives of certain characters, the backstory regarding Rachel’s disappearance, and by Max’s destructive visions. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the story progresses, and I’m waiting for the next episode with interest.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Life is Strange Episode 1 the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of 1 week on a PlayStation 4. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.