Life Is Strange – Episode one

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Score: 9.5
(16+)

2015

Life Is Strange is one of those games I knew right away I’d end up loving. And I was not disappointed. A lot of old school adventure fans complain about the new interactive movie type of gameplay with no pointing & clicking or puzzles but I never was stuck with the old school idea (even though I do love many old school adventures myself) and I’m really happy to see a game totally nailing the new play style instead of just throwing around some unintuitive QTE-sequences here and there. LIS plays great, it has a great atmosphere and an interesting plot.

I’ve only played the first episode so far. I know the second one is out but I’m in no rush to get it because then I’d just need to wait longer for the third. I got this episode as a gift – yes, I have friends (on the internet). Anyway, the first episode already is one of my most enjoyable gaming experiences to date. I like to be able to roam around in the surroundings with a keyboard and a behind-a-character view. When I move around the interactable objects light up and I can choose the action with a mouse (and there are puzzles, which aren’t terribly hard, but still puzzles). The whole control scheme is smooth and nice, and one can probably figure out how much I like it when I mention the whole thing before I talk about the story.

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The protagonist is a shy student Max, who loves photography. The game starts with a weird dream about a storm, and soon after Max starts thinking that it was a vision and she has an ability to travel back in time. In the first episode the player gets to know the surroundings, the school and campus and a bunch of the characters. LIS is like one of those TV dramas with smart teenagers, and a supernatural twist. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the game, it has a similar vibe to Buffy or Veronica Mars. And this game definitely borrows from Gone Home – in a good way. I already loved Gone Home but now I get to interact with people and affect the actual events that are happening, which makes the experience even better.

Unfortunately no one call really talk about this game without spoiling the whole time travel issue, but it’s introduced in the game right away, so I don’t really count anything that happens within the first 10 minutes as spoiling. I could leave it out but I’m pretty sure everyone who ever looked up this game from anywhere already knows this, and I want to mention its effect to the gameplay, so I’m pretty forced here.

At the beginning there’s really a tutorial with Max’s skill, the first times around the player is actually forced to use her skill to advance the game. A bit later on it’s voluntary but Max’s thoughts still guide the player a lot, it can even feel like being handheld a bit too much. I love this ‘rewind’ skill because now I can do what I’ve always wanted to do without having to exploit saves (which is pretty difficult in these interactive movie types anyway since one can’t freely save where ever one wants): I can examine anything, try out everything and just rewind it back to the beginning like I didn’t do a thing. Wohoo for snooping around.

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Some people think that this way part of the charm is ruined, as you can just keep going back until you get your desired result. But it’s already obvious that some of the actions have further consequences, not just the immediate ones. So I don’t really know what kinds of things are coming back to haunt me in the future episodes. Currently I am thinking about doing another playthrough for the first episode, to really thoroughly explore every nook and corner, and change some of the bigger choices from my first save.

Let’s not forget that the game also looks pretty, and the voice acting is good. I already liked pretty much all the characters, and it’s nice how everyone seems to have their share of secrets (for me to find out). Because there is so much “extra” stuff in the game, the time for a playthrough will greatly vary depending on the person playing. One episode can probably be played through in a hour if the player wishes to rush through it. But it’s possible to spend a few more hours with it just by being nosy and weird.

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