It’s very rare that a game will make you question your actions throughout and that’s exactly what Life Is Strange does – it makes the simplest tasks such as watering a plant or snooping around places you shouldn’t be have consequences. Some will be immediate, whilst others won’t occur until much later and by then you’ve probably forgotten. If you’ve played a lot of Telltale titles recently such as The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones series, you’ll be very familiar with the narrative aspect of Life Is Strange.
The game puts you into the shoes of Max, a shy photography student emerged in the world of school life, who discovers she has a power to reverse time after spotting a troublesome lad called Nathan in the toilets with a gun. You can activate this power at any time and reverse your actions if you think you could have done something a little differently. For example, dialogue often leads to multiple consequences, so if you made a choice you’re not happy with you can always rewind and try another route. It’s very much trial and error, as you don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it, but it also feels rewarding when you do manage to help someone out in the process.
The gameplay itself is heavily focused on narrative, so dialogue and exploring your surroundings form a large part – spotting a box on top of a shelf and then pulling it down will present you with a consequence of being found out later because it fell into some oil on the floor. You could even reverse time and undo your action by never touching the box in the first place. The choice is completely left in your delicate hands. Whenever I saw the “This action will have consequences” message on screen, I had to go back and try something else, just to see the different outcomes on offer. It also adds replayability to the game, as you can play through the episode again and change your actions to see the outcome unfold.
What gives this title charm is it’s ability to tackle social problems such as depression, bullying, drugs and violence head on. It doesn’t shy away in a corner and presents the number of problems suffered by young individuals of today efficiently and with care. You’ll meet a variety of classmates throughout Blackwell Academy and if you choose to do so, you can enquire about their problems and help them. You’re not a shrink, but more of a friend to them – if you choose to be anyway. We all know the pressures on young people today and this is definitely a title that addresses many of them. It’s a well known fact school isn’t always the nicest of places with so many individuals mixed, and the way it was presented in the first episode is something I really admire about it.
Throughout the game, the world feels alive with music playing from people’s dorm rooms to the students who pass you by in the corridor. You actually feel like you’re a part of the school and that’s what makes Life Is Strange so powerful. The world immerses you within it and at times I had to pinch myself to snap myself out of it and away from it. The themes of nostalgia through the first episode are also ever-present, as Max rekindles her friendship with her old friend Chloe it’s very reminiscent of friendships in the real world. People drift apart and forget one another and then when they see each other in a few years, it brings back fond memories. The ability to capture this moment in a video game is impressive to say the least.
There’s even some collectible photo opportunities throughout the game, which will grant additional achievements if found. It’s really quite special to find a narrative title squeeze fundamental elements of video games like collectibles into a dominant narrative game. Collectibles come in the form of photos, so you might spot a butterfly perched or an interesting graffiti design to snap a picture of. As a photographer, Max’s gift of taking a picture other than selfies comes from this form of finding collectibles.
Overall, I have to say that Life Is Strange is probably one of my favourite Xbox One titles so far. It definitely ranks highly up there and I would recommend this to anyone who’s a fan of Telltale’s recent episodic series like The Walking Dead. The script is brilliantly written, the gameplay is interesting and the choice of actions you take can really make you think hard about them. I’ve never played a game which made me question my actions this much before, so the experience felt fresh and immersive. I’m really looking forward to see where this series goes in terms of the storyline. The first episode is also a decent length, so value for money is great when you consider it’s only £3.99 each episode.
- A world you feel apart of
- Tackles real life everyday problems like depression and bullying
- A storyline filled with twists and turns
- Some may find the narrative gameplay a little too boring