Played On: Xbox One*
Available On: PS4/PS3/XBOX ONE/XBOX 360/PC
Released On: January 30th, 2015
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Genres: Graphic Adventure
ESRB: M – Mature
*Review copy was sent by Square Enix*
If you followed the site just a bit, you saw that Life is Strange really caught my eyes since the first trailer. The time has come for the first episode, named Chrysalis, and examined it to see what future episodes have in store. With the work Dontnod invested in the game, shown in 3 Dev Diary, will the game know how to captivate the player? Let’s move in time and explore the world of Life is Strange, Episode 1 “Chrysalis”.
You play as Maxine, a new photography student at Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay, Oregon. After 5 years living in Seattle, she’s back in her hometown to learn more about her passion from one her favorite photographer presently teaching at her new school. She discovers the ability to rewind time that which is now bestowed upon her and helps Max save the life of a friend, unknown to her at this crossroad in time. She’s then reunited with that friend, Chloe Price, a bit later and starts their adventure that will, in future episodes, test their limits and friendship. With her new-found power, Max can use the ability to solve puzzles, get clues to the right answer in conversations and much more.
The game is build from the ground up for the story and it delivers on all the lines. I immediately felt immersed right from the beginning with the characters and voice acting. Every person you interact with, or even Max herself, feel genuine and involved in what’s happening. I enjoy a good story, although the first episode is more of a prep for future ones, the game still captivates the player.
The rewind power is a nice touch that changes this type of game’s general feeling when looking at pass iteration of this genre. You might feel a bit underwhelmed by the power because you don’t immediately feel the impact of most decisions, this is quite the opposite. The one thing Life is Strange does very well is making you double-guess yourself after a each important decision, it plays a small song snippet that imposes a tone to the event, making you reconsider your choice. Max even inputs a small inner thought that, most of the time, seems like she’s thinking twice about the way the conversation or event has unraveled, in consequence gives you that same feeling. This is why the rewind power is actually well done and doesn’t feel that you have full power of the situation.
Life is Strange offers a balance when it comes to the style of the game, on one hand we get a sense of realism from the character designs which makes it look like a very nice weekly television show, and the other hand there’s a presence of a slight comic strip-like design in the outlines of objects and Arcadia’s population. There’s a nice attention to details when it comes to each little item, it gives the world a nice vibrant feeling, from the posters in the school to the trees moving in the wind.
There’s one thing that caught my eye when I was playing on the Xbox One, the audio seems out of sync with the character’s mouth and sometime the NPCs, or the protagonist, have a barely moving mouth when talking. This might be a bit mood breaking at times but the visuals and gameplay makes up for it a lot.
Episode 1 of Life is Strange has only a couple of puzzles which are either pretty easy or they straight up give you the answer when you get it wrong the first time. I’ll give Dontnod a pass on episode 1 because it’s the introduction to the game, I didn’t expect to be bombarded with difficult situations. The most obvious is at one point you must grab something that is high on top of a cabinet, when reaching for it, the item falls to the floor behind something else. Immediately, the game almost, in my opinion, tells you what to do which unlike other puzzlers didn’t present any challenges. I would have liked to figured out what to do at that time. Like I said, I will let this one slide but I’m expecting the difficulty to ramp up a bit higher on future episodes.
For episode one, it features one type of collectibles, when interacting with the world you can move, change or activate events that will create photo opportunities which are then posted in Max’ journal. Collectibles are not shown most of the time, you must walk up to them and interact with the environment to capture the required picture perfect moment. They aren’t always in plain sight, there’s couple I had to redo some portions to find them. The game does give you a small hint to what you’re looking for by showing the general look of the picture in your journal(see picture).
The game does help you with a nice little feature when going back to find collectibles. When selecting the chapter, you can select the option to start in collectible mode which doesn’t affect the decisions you made when playing through it the first time, event if you redo an event and choose a different outcome. I enjoyed it because I was in and out of those chapters when I went looking for the collectibles. Also, when selecting a chapter to start from, it tells you how many pictures there’s to collect in that stage and shows you what you have in your journal. This really helped when I went back to finish collecting the ones I’ve missed.
You really get the feeling that the music and voice acting was done right. In this type of game where the story is key, voice acting and the soundtrack are critical to the success of the game, Life is Strange does both superbly. The soundtrack, which can be heard on Youtube And Spotify, is a very pleasant mix of tracks that encompasses all the moods created in the game, the end of the first episode really has a great feeling because of it and sets a nice a tone for the next episode, I’m actually listening to this track while writing the review.
The voice acting, Maxine Caulfield voiced by Hannah Telle and Chloe Price voiced by Ashly Burch, is well executed and feels natural in context. Max is a shy girl and the voice actress portrays it really well. Personally, I never felt like some character’s voice didn’t go with what action they were performing, if one of the NPCs was a bit crazy, the voice followed and was believable.
If you hadn’t made up your mind for Life is Strange, I highly recommend trying it out. Although the game isn’t wall to wall action, the game offers a spectacular story, mixed with excellent voice acting and music. The visuals a very enjoyable to look at even with the small out of sync voice-to-character aspect. You will not be disappointed for trying it out.
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