I didn’t really play the point & click/graphic adventure game when I was younger. Since games like that are more focused toward stories and characters and themes as opposed to gameplay and action I didn’t pay attention to them. As I’ve gotten older my mind has opened up to more than the basic game experience. This style of game has made a bit of a resurgence lately with the episodic series from Telltale Games. Stories like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us and Tales from the Borderlands have brought in a new generation of audience. I am included in this new group. I recently played and complete one of my new favorites in this genre, a game called Life Is Strange.
The game is the story of photography student Maxine Caufield. It covers a week of her life as a student at Blackwell Academy in the fictitious town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. The game begins with Max going about her day at school. Early in episode 1, she witnesses an even that causes her to discover she has the ability to rewind time. After meeting up with her childhood friend Chole Price, Max embarks on a journey that may possibly result in the end of reality.
The game was released in 2015 over 5 episodes and is now available in whole for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Windows PC.
From a gameplay/technical perspective the game has all the pieces of a point & click adventure. A lot of dialogue, paying attention to your surroundings, puzzles, hunting for items needed to progress the story and player choices that may impact the narrative. To mix things up, we have the use of Max’s rewind ability which is used not only to redo moments where you made a choice that you want to see play out differently, but also to solve puzzles. It is a nice mechanic that gives a new feature to a fairly old style of game. There are some issues with the syncing of the characters mouth movements to their voices. However the voice acting is pretty good and believable. I never once doubted that these were high school students in this story. From the slang to the vocal inflections, nothing ever felt overdone or melodramatic.
Another issue was there was a fetch quest halfway through that was longer than it should have been. There also are a couple sections that are stealth focused that did not need to be there. There is a stealth area toward the end that really dragged on for me. You will not be blown away by the game’s visuals, but there are some pretty good light effects evident in the many sunsets you see during play.
Normally games like this do not offer reasons to play through again other than to make different choices, but this one does give a little incentive. Throughout the game you have a chance to photograph items Max may come across during the story. You can snap shots to earn trophies or achievements based on your platform of preference. There is also a director commentary that was released for free.
Like other games before it, the core of Life is Strange is its story. There are two elements to it that I enjoyed. First is the time travel elements that give no real explanation. I am fine with that. For example we don’t know how Max actually gets this power or rules of time travel. It’s kept simple. Something happens, she can rewind and do things different and there are different outcomes. There isn’t any scientific reasons and I’m glad because it would take too much from the overall narrative. Aside from the science fiction elements, there is a very human story here. Max has no idea that is happening to her and she has to balance this with normal high school life. I relate to Max in a way as she is person who does not quite fit in nor fully fit out in regards to the social groups that we are normally presented with teenagers. There is so much going on around her with themes of bullying, friendship, suicide, grief and resentment coming to the forefront. I also enjoyed the characters she interacts with as there is some depth to the other students that are not normally shown in films or television. The choices you have during the story make you think as they are not simple to make. There are consequences that may not make themselves known in the short run, but may or may not affect your relationships later.
I was totally engaged from start to finish. Once I reached the end and made my final choice, I sat so still I’m not sure if I was breathing. I knew what I had chosen, but to see the end result play out with the knowledge I gained throughout was a hard hitting moment indeed.This was a great experience for me to play and I appreciate the work developer Dontnod Entertainment out into this. I look forward to their next game in this style if they wish to make another. Life is not only strange, it’s great!
For more DeaconsDen coverage of narrative driven games, check out the reviews for: