The first episode of Life is Strange gave its audience a brief look at the students in the halls of Blackwell Academy, a private art school tucked in the small town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. As with all elite schools in seemingly boring towns, not everything is what it seems, and the second episode of Life is Strange gave us an even more detailed look at the heroine’s homecoming.
What Is It?
For those that haven’t given the first episode a shot, Life is Strange puts players in the shoes of Max Caulfield, a thoughtful-minded teen from Oregon that moved to Seattle, but eventually moved back after her acceptance at Blackwell.
As anybody who’s moved back and forth can relate with, while Max is happy to be “home,” she finds herself sort of distraught as she realizes things aren’t exactly the way they used to be and on top of her constant teenage daydreaming, she later finds out she has the ability to go back short distances in time.
The first episode, Chrysalis, ended when strange visions of a tornado wreaking havoc on Arcadia Bay forced Max to tell her old best friend about her newfound abilities.
Why Should I Care?
It’s no secret that time travel is hardly anything new in gaming, but it’s used pretty brilliantly in Life is Strange.
Other episodic point-and-click adventures will oftentimes leave players as cautious as possible when it comes to selecting actions and responses for your main character, but Life is Strange gives players a little more room to breathe since you can make Max can go back and say or do something else if you don’t like the end result of the action.
The most obvious use of Max’s powers take front and center with the game’s pilot. In Chrysalis, Max discovers her time traveling abilities when she unexpectedly witnessed a school shooting. After going through reversing time and preventing the shooting, you have a choice of whether or not to report the gunman to the principal only to find out later that the assailant is a member of the most powerful and wealthy family in town. This is an example of the game making it seem like all your decisions matter, and in this case — it didn’t, which is something common in this type of game.
Out of Time showcases different uses of Max’s rewind ability, and while they do have a sense of creativity, the game doesn’t really do a good job of demonstrating that method’s importance.
One particular scene in the game requires you to guess what’s in a friend’s pockets and memorize every single detail. So, over the course of the conversation Max and her friend have, she eventually finds out what’s in her pockets, but she has to get every detail right. Not only does your friend have cigarettes, your friend has seven cigarettes. Not only does she have a parking ticket, she has a parking ticket that she received at 11:34 AM. Does all that really matter? Hardly, and that particular part in the game lasted around 15 minutes, which can easily be longer by making even one mistake, resulting in you having to guess everything all over again. If the game didn’t give players the option to skip dialog, plenty of people would’ve quit right there.
While Chrysalis went over various issues that have become commonplace in today’s world, such as loneliness, bullying, sexting, to the aforementioned gun violence, Out of Time pushes the envelope even further, resulting in an expected darker turn for the series.
This second episode deals with drugs, possible date rape, depression due to bullying, and even suicide among other issues. So, while Out of Time definitely gives Life is Strange a more edgy narrative, it makes the game feel like its trying too hard to be a digitized version of a CW teen drama. It’s almost ridiculous.
Despite its teenybopper feel, Max Caulfield’s character along with her bestie relationship with Chloe Price really shine in this episode. While players can definitely have a say as to how Max acts, it really comes as no surprise that she’s a sweet and caring girl in the inside, making her the perfect polar opposite to Chloe’s stereotypical child of rebellion persona. Chloe easily comes off as tremendously flawed, but considering her upbringing and what she’s gone through, she’s still a very likable character amidst a lot of the cliché teens featured in the game.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
In our review of the first episode, Ted had trouble pinpointing the intended audience this series is trying to cater to, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s definitely for the kind of people that enjoy teen dramas. Everything, from the way people act and think, the amount of power these kids have at their high school, and the way light rock music seems to liven each setting just screams CW. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing (heck, I love The Flash and Arrow), there’s a reason why shows such as Supernatural and Jane the Virgin don’t draw in the amount of viewers other programs like Game of Thrones easily does.
One major issue the game seems to have is something cosmetic. Like Chrysalis before it, Out of Time‘s superb voice acting is actually brought down by the fact that the voices and the mouth animations are nowhere near consistent. Yes, it’s something that isn’t hard to get used to, but it’s still inexcusable production value, and it’s unfortunate because other than that, the game is beautiful. This is a game that portrays white people in America, but it looks like a bad dub instead.
Again, if you’re not a fan of point-and-clicks, while Episode 2 highlights more unique aspects of its gameplay, it’s still not going to change your mind. However, it’s worth noting that so far into the series, your decisions actually matter. In fact, Out of Time has a couple different endings depending on how you make things play out. Maybe the decisions you made here will be rendered useless once we get to Episode 4 or something, but so far it’s been more than solid.
All this said, it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve already invested in the first episode as well as this one, you’re stuck now. Square Enix is looking like they have a heck of an IP right here, and I can’t help but look forward to see what’s next for Max and her powers.
Reviews of Previous Episodes of Life is Strange: