Episodic adventure games are in the middle of a well deserved renaissance period. Telltale Games’ popular titles have breathed new life into the genre, which is why other game developers are now following suit. Dontnod Studios has put together a supremely interesting plot line that follows the supernatural mysteries and high school drama of a female teenage named Max.
Welcome to the first episode of Life is Strange – Chrysalis.
Your main character, Max Caulfield, is an aspiring photographer who’s recently made a big move. After leaving her quaint hometown for the big city, she finds herself returning to that quiet town to attend a prestigious private school. Max exhibits the expected qualities of a teenager who considers themselves an outsider, which makes her instantly relatable for some. Her love of photography has driven her to attend such a respected institution. Max’s school mates fill the gamut of the personalities that exist within high school cliques – mean rich girls, varsity jacket wearing jocks, mysterious loners, skate punks and more. There’s a wide host of interesting characters to interact with who come with their own events for Max to intervene in. Getting the chance to play out these events is one of the highlights of this game.
The most important element behind Life is Strange is Max’s newfound power – she has the ability to rewind time at will. Max’s time rewinding skills come into play as you solve simple puzzles and help deal with situations involving your closest friends. The first episode starts off simple enough, as you sit inside a classroom and discover how to make good use of your new time sensitive skills. The story quickly intensifies though, as you’re forced to utilize your rewinding skills to save the life of a close friend. The rest of this episode is filled with even more events that test your moral compass. You’ll be driven to find each and every instance of character interaction.
Life is Strange’s supporting cast is fun to follow. The voice acting here is great, as is the simple yet clean visual makeup of the quaint environment you inhabit. A slew of personalities await at every turn and the conversations you engage in with them are hard to pass up. The trials and tribulations of early adulthood permeates through this first bit of the game. Important decisions seem to occur regularly. Should you tell the school’s principal about a potential threat? Should you intervene when a school security guard bothers a young student? Should you aid a close friend when her stepfather gets out of hand? There are several decisions to make here and the game’s solid story will drive you to strongly consider every possibility.
The time rewinding mechanic of Life is Strange is a cool, no doubt. But this power kind of diminishes the impact of your decisions. Having the chance to quickly change your decisions after making them feels like a cop-out, which may be great for some players who feel a sense of regret and guilt after an important event. This ability is great for navigating environmental puzzles and changing minor events, but it makes important decision making feel unimportant since you can change your mind at the drop of a dime. It’s best if you were left with your hard choices instead of having the power to change them to your liking so quickly.
Life is Strange’s first episode ends on a high note and will most certainly have you anticipating the next chapter in this strange tale. Max is an interesting young soul surrounded by suspicious characters who present several mysteries to solve. All of these stories, combined with the time rewinding powers, missing young girl and the threat of an impending storm has us ready for another helping of the game.
Images: Square Enix, Dotnod