In a world of shooters, platformers or generally frantic and action-packed games, it is sometimes a blessing to have the time to stop and think. Also “thanks” to the world-wide lack of PS5 availability, I had the chance to retrieve Life Is Strange, an episodic graphic adventure game developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix during the course of 2015. Dontnod was previously known for Remember Me, a PS3 cyberpunk action title set in a futuristic version of Paris, so the appearance of a completely different kind of game was warmly welcome on the scene.
The story sees you in the shoes of Max Caulfield, an 18-year-old photography student who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. As now standard in the world of fiction, this ability directly leads to an uncontrollable series of butterfly effects, so the game will soon obviously turn into a matter of choice and consequences. The good news, though, is that it all happens at a slow but pleasant pace that, for once, gives you the opportunity of living a worthy story that focuses on characters and their complex relationships. The player’s actions will adjust the narrative as it unfolds, and reshape it when allowed to travel back and forth in time. Puzzle-solving will be part of the basic gameplay and, although sometimes perceived as boring or meaningless, it will indeed prove to be well fit and meaningful for the overall scenario.
Your adventure starts when you accidentally discover your ability of rewinding time and you use it to save the life of Chloe, an old friend whose life went havoc after the very premature death of her beloved father. Max and Chloe will soon fall into the “trap” of Arcadia Bay, the town where they live, and its dark secrets. Their task will be to discover the truth behind the sudden disappearance of a fellow student, Rachel.
As the story unfolds, Max begins to have premonitions of the future events and we will soon have to make very tough and life-changing decisions: changing the past can sometimes lead to a devastating future.
The setup of the game is heavily influenced by the developers’ travel to the American Pacific Northwest, with characters archetypes and level layouts mimicking the life and the situations of a peaceful little town. Despite that, none of the depicted situations are peaceful and taboos like homosexual love and extreme cyber-bullyism leading to suicide are definitely present.
For the lovers of the supernatural, quotes from books and fiction are definitely included, mainly coming from the world of Stephen King.
The game itself was generally well-received, leading to a prequel (Before the Storm) and a sequel (Life Is Strange 2), that I hope to have a chance to play and review soon. Life is Strange is a game that I strongly suggest, especially if you are tired of soulless situations and you are in need of slowing down a bit to think. I actually enjoyed playing the game with my young (teen-ager) son, since it gave us the possibility to face real-life situations and explore the consequences of wrong actions.
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