Review – Life is Strange – PS4

Life is Strange is a 5 part Episodic game that introduces us to Max Caulfield – A budding photography student at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. Her day starts as a regular old day at lectures, then suddenly, something happens and she discovers that she can rewind time. After discovering her gift, Max rekindles her friendship with her childhood best friend Chloe and heads out into the weirdest week of her life. The story is very character driven, emotionally charged, mysterious and a joy to play.

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I love time travel stories. I’m obsessed with ‘The Butterfly Effect’ – the theory, not the movie (but that’s cool too). However, I often end up either confused by plot holes or unsatisfied by wasted potential. That was not the case with Life is Strange. I thoroughly enjoyed having the time travel ability, deciding when to apply it, seeing different outcomes, solving problems, changing decisions and experiencing the consequences. It was all done so much better than I imagined it could be in my head, with regards to continuity and actual play style.

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At its heart, this game had three main themes. Exploration, decision-making and problem solving. There were then the added flavours of mystery, whimsy, and even darkness with some fun moments and some very serious. The game is played in third person with you controlling Max. As you wander around, anything you can interact with is highlighted, including objects, people and animals. As you approach the game tells you which button to press to interact with said object/person/animal. You can look at things to hear Max’s thoughts, chat to people, inspect objects and there are occasional photo opportunities that go towards the trophies of the game. Gameplay is quite easy, if you are going too wrong then Max will sometimes give you a hint but generally the puzzles are easy enough. Like I said, exploration is one of the main factors of the game and if you don’t explore you will miss a lot so don’t be afraid to examine everything in the room before you do something. You can always rewind if you aren’t happy with what you did. There is enough variety in dialogue options to play Max as you want to play her and have your own experience.

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The Graphics aren’t great, but I don’t think they are meant to be. They are good but not Beyond: Two Souls level. That doesn’t mean to say there aren’t beautiful moments because there are many. The whole feel of the graphics fits in perfectly with the style of the game. It’s artsy, cute, quirky and beautiful in its own right. The attention to detail is insane. As you explore, read everything and you will just see how much effort has gone into making this a real living world. The posters on the walls, the graffiti, the texts, the journal. You will see what I mean as the game goes on, there are subtle and not so subtle changes. There is also plenty of subtle humor.  I love everything about the detail put into this game, I am in awe of anyone that has such a great imagination.

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As far as the story goes, some bits are predictable, some are shocking, some are awesome, some are funny, some are heart breaking. If you are a fan of Story based games then I can guarantee it will give you feels. The characters were so cliché but I loved that. It was really great that there was time to actually get to know the side characters. Going from everyone being strangers to looking forward to interacting with them is a great feeling. The only issues I have are 1. Sometimes it was noticeable that the same actor was voicing different parts and 2. Max’s voice could get a little bit annoying sometimes.

The story takes place over 5 days. Each episode is a new day give or take. Episode 4 blew me away and was my favourite of the 5. From beginning to end it had something to enjoy and it’s when the story really starts to get serious and everything starts coming together. In addition to just playing the story, if you look in the middle section of your journal there will be a bunch of sketches for every episode. These are the optional photos that I mentioned earlier. I didn’t notice until I was onto episode 2 but the sketches are a clue as to what the photo is going to be. It added a whole new angle of enjoyment to be on the lookout for what these photos could be. Some weren’t as expected and some made you work to get them. These photos are collectibles, they aren’t necessary and don’t affect the story however it’s probably the easiest platinum trophy you will ever get! Don’t worry if you do miss any because it’s very easy to go back when you have finished the game and mop them up.

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Do you like choice driven games? Do you like story driven games? Do you like character driven games? If yes then it is definitely worth playing. It is like the interactive movie genre games with a twist. It is creative, poetic, a lovely story of friendship with intriguing mysteries that will have you laughing and crying. Its hella good.

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When I write a review I like to write down my experience of the story and see how it differs to other peoples. Don’t hesitate to comment if you agree/disagree with something!

I had been suspicious of Mr. Jefferson a couple of times throughout the game but each time he completely changed my mind. One time was when Victoria tried to blackmail him and he completely shut her down. Another was when blaming him in the principles office, I thought it was weird that the option was even there so I rewound to see what that was all about. Nothing suspicious. Slimy SOB. Then in the 4th episode he seemed a bit weird again. Specifically at the party. I don’t know why but I got the creeps seeing him there, he looked out-of-place the second I saw him. When the end was revealed I wasn’t surprised because I sort of suspected it but I still thought it was a great way to end the episode. I was very pleased that I didn’t have to wait months between episodes, that would have sucked.

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I didn’t have a clue what to think of Nathan because he had to be in on it. I loved what they did though and it all made sense when it was revealed. I feel very sympathetic to him, poor kid had severe mental health problems that were ignored by his asshole family then he was used by an even bigger asshole pervert, only to realise what he had done and be killed by said asshole pervert. Now that’s traumatic. David gave me a weird feeling too, it was the opposite of Mr Jefferson. I kept believing that he only had the best intentions for him to then go and do something stupid like spy on his home and hit Chloe. Then there was the resentment of him replacing William who was the nicest person in existence. I was so pleased that my instincts with him turned out to be true, he turned out to be a great character, I’m quite fond of him. Everything in the dark room once he rescues Max was what I had been hoping for with his character. The option when he finds out that it was Jefferson that killed Chloe was POWERFUL.

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I was really satisfied with my ending. Throughout the game I was sure that we were going to get a happy ending. I don’t know why I thought that, the last two games I completed had me sobbing (Red Dead Redemption and Beyond: Two Souls in case you were wondering). I was sure that we were going to find Rachel Amber and live happily ever after somehow. I hadn’t made the connection that the tornado was caused by the time travel and as soon as Warren said it in the diner it was a ‘Duh’ moment. There wasn’t much time to think between then and the end decision but when it came to it I was still surprised and had to pause the game to think it through. The right option was so obvious to me. In every single alternate timeline Chloe died. Every single one. She was never meant to live. I get the feeling that even if they survived the tornado she was going to get killed again soon. My thoughts are very ‘Final Destination’ but it makes sense. She was never meant to live. If you choose to sacrifice Arcadia Bay, every person that you saved in the tornado chapter would die. I can’t justify that from Max’s perspective or mine. Also, sacrificing Chloe isn’t just sacrificing Chloe. It’s putting time right. The game has clearly shown that you shouldn’t mess with time. From the nosebleeds to the passing out to the nightmare. The world literally cannot handle it. There is no timeline without the eco-disasters except the original one. Who’s to say that sacrificing Arcadia Bay is all that you are sacrificing? That tornado might never end, it might just tear through America, then the world. There might be more eco-disasters. There have been new ones every day and I dare bet that they would keep coming. I feel that the reason they didn’t expand on the sacrifice Arcadia Bay ending is because there isn’t anything else that they can add without making it obvious that it is the wrong choice. Look at what happened in the sacrifice Chloe epilogue. The chain of positive events that were originally meant to happen. I love the fact that it all came full circle and I don’t think there could be a more satisfying ending. As sad as it was it was necessary for the story to make sense. Don’t mess with time.

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I KNEW it was going to come back to that butterfly. The whole theory of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ is that a hurricane could be caused by the flapping of a butterflies wings at the other side of the world. I love how they have taken that theory and used it, literally and metaphorically. I’m not a very symbolic or poetic person but I did appreciate the use of the butterflies and the tornado. Having the butterfly then land on Chloes coffin proved to me that I had made the right choice and that this was the way that it was supposed to be. That was their destiny all along. I really appreciate the fact that we couldn’t fix everything with time, and the more you try to change it the more trouble you cause. My only worry is that I have heard they are making a season 2 containing all new characters, I hope this doesn’t completely undermine my theory.

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Just a couple of other things that I enjoyed – I really liked Warren for Max. I think they were a good match. They are both geeky, they like the same stuff, she thinks he’s cute, he completely trusts her, they are just completely on the same wave-length.

I was really sad when I realised that I was going to have to let William die again. That was almost as sad as the ending to me. That guy didn’t do one thing wrong. Except buying Chloe a car I guess.

Last one – I really liked the way they told the story, especially when it came to the alternate realities. I can’t think of a better way to catch us up than showing us photos of the changes. It spoke so much without even using words. The time that the photos changed back to being in the dark room my heart sank. It was chilling. I did not expect to end up back there. So well done.

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Overall, this was my kind of game. Exploration and problem solving are some of my favourite parts of games. That along with time travel made it great. It was emotional and although I didn’t cry like I have before, there was a tear when the credits started rolling. This was probably because I was so confident that my choice was right. Either way, it was fun and a good game, even for people who don’t game. The only way I can think of to improve it would be to make it longer. Either more episodes or one long game. Then, at some of the photo-travel moments it could give you a couple of photos to choose from. That way you are truly creating your own story because whichever photo you choose changes different things. If this happened a few times then there would be loads of replay value to see where different combinations ultimately take you. Although maybe that is best saved for another game.

What were your thoughts? Were your suspicions right? What was your final choice? Did you cry?

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