Title: Life is Strange Episode 1 – Chrysalis
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Price: $19.99 / £145.99 ($4.99 / £3.99 Per Episode)
Release Date: Out Now
Tagline: A fantastic immersion experience into the life of a conflicted high schooler.
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
Verdict: Buy It Already
After Dontnod released Remember Me, the last thing I would have expected from them was an episodic adventure title that would focus on hard hitting story elements. I mean, Remember Me had style, a unique game mechanic and was full of combat action sequences. Sure, it cooked up a decent story, but it was nothing to write home about. Now with the first episode of Life is Strange, the final product in this chain of events from Dontnod, it turns out that this might have been the best step that the team could have taken as Chrysalis, the first episode of Life is Strange, sets up a compelling narrative that sets the tone for fans waiting for the next episodes.
Life is Strange takes place in a high end private art school, where we meet one Max Caufield, a nice subtle reference to the Catcher in the Rye protagonist, where she is going through the fits and steps that most young adult students find themselves going through – trying to find their place both in school and in life. Things are never that simple when it comes to an adventure game, and Life is Strange is no different. I mean, we first meet Max confronting a large storm cloud in front of a lighthouse before waking up in class, wondering what just happened to her.
As with Dontnod’s prior game, Life is Strange also utilizes a time mechanic where you can rewind time at certain points, using it to manipulate outcomes to solve puzzles. More interesting though, and maybe to some degree, controversial, is the idea that you can also rewind back past decision points in the main story. So in one instance, you might find yourself choosing to hide in a closet during one decision, but maybe you want to go back and see if things work better by coming out and confronting someone. You would think that this would allow someone to pick the best route to the end of the story, but in all honestly, I have shifted time several times past decisions and sometimes it works out well, but in other instances, it has actually come back to bite me in the ass.
The nifty time mechanic is one of the core components of Life is Strange, the bigger thing here is the exquisite amount of detail that Dontnod have put forth in creating a living, breathing school environment. Here, kids interact, post weird messages on post-it boards and form social cliques that dish out good and bad things equally depending on who you are confronting. It’s like someone watched Mean Girls, The Breakfast Club and several other high school comedy/drama films and mashed them into one interactive experience. I found myself interacting with every little thing that you could find to interact with and believe me, there is a ton of stuff, each with a little blurb or info bubble to give you some backstory, no matter how insignificant. I mean, finding the culprit behind a broken laptop is a small detail, but I found it and thought it fit in perfectly to the atmosphere fostered in Life is Strange‘s world.
Life is Strange also weaves a nice narrative that hints at things here and there but never draws out the full story, even when you reach the end of the first chapter. This episode is more about getting your feet wet underneath you and understanding what you can do in this world and meeting the players that might factor into your outcome several episodes down the line. Better still is that the story decides to never shy away from taboo topics like violence against women, social shaming and more. With at least one of these topics, the game never shies away from the outcome and it is uncomfortable and un-nerving to watch, which means the devs have hit the mark on emotional resonance.
About the only mis-step that happens in Life is Strange might be the overwriting of a few sequences. There are many times where you are trying to create a well thought out school narrative, but on occasion, the story can read like a 30 year old man writing a story for an 18 year old girl. It can feel forced and overemphasized, but it is a relatively small complaint in an otherwise fun and fantastic journey into conflicted mind of a young Max Caufield.
Life is Strange performed a monumental feat of creating a new way to explore an episodic adventure game that brings back light puzzle solving, compelling characters and the ability to try and find out what way is the best way to get through the trying times of high school and young adult drama. Its first foot forward in episode 1, Chrysalis, ramps up nicely and leaves you wanting for the next episode. Now the wait begins and I am on edge waiting impatiently for episode 2 of Life is Strange.
Class A Photo:
- Quality storytelling
- Great immersion into a high school enviornment
- A lovely, detailed world
- Some dialogue is a bit overwritten or overdramatic for the scenes in question
- Dialogue is occasionally off from lip movement making for a slight distraction
Life is Strange is a tough bird to classify. On one hand, it is a game that I think should be played by anyone in high school and even middle school, if only to see the challenges that kids face and ways to get past them. But it is a game that also has a lot of sexual talk, drug use, violence towards young teens and gunplay at one point, earning it the M rating is is beholden to. Maybe have your schoolers play it if in the company of parents, but otherwise, keep it to those 17 and up.
Review conducted with retail code purchased by the reviewer