Life is Strange – Game Review

On the penultimate eve of what is swiftly becoming the geek event of the year – PAX AU – I thought I would celebrate the approaching nerdgasm with a review of a game that I have been playing on and off for the past few weeks.

I would have done a review sooner but I’ve basically been in post-game remorse since I finished it a couple days ago.

Life Is Strange

It certainly is. If you want a game that induces all the feels… EVERY. SINGLE. ONE… then you need to play this one.

Let me chuck in a disclaimer here, though. If you prefer a lot of activity in your gaming experience (think “activity” in First Person Shooter terms – button mashing and racing around shooting/hitting things), then you will not like this game. If you enjoy a character and plot-driven game that runs more like a choose-your-own-adventure book, then you will love it.

Life is Strange is about choices.

Cause and effect.

Chaos Theory.

It’s a game in five parts (or episodes) where you play the part of Max, a budding photographer who discovers she has the power to turn back time and rewrite the past, sometimes to the betterment and sometimes to the detriment of any given situation.

The game starts with saving the life of Max’s long-lost best friend, the blue-haired Chloe, and from there you follow the girls through their adventures. It’s a little Sweet Valley High mixed with Pretty Little Liars mixed with Twin Peaks mixed with Walking Dead.

But without the zombies.

Chloe and Max
Chloe and Max

For me, it was totally immersive. I became invested in both the characters and the storyline. It brought me to tears in a few parts – but maybe I’m just a sook… Though having watched a few people on Youtube playing the game, their reactions have been much the same.

The real star of the show is the beautiful soundtrack. A good musical score can make or break a film and the same can be said for a game like Life is Strange. The music is mellow and haunting and lovely. Paired up with the fantastic art and animation throughout, it’s a real treat. I’ve noticed a handful of folks criticising the voice acting and script but once you just get into it, you simply don’t notice the ridiculousness of it. (“You hella saved my life!”)

The game play itself is very simple, you look at everything, talk to everyone and choose an appropriate response. In some places you have problems to solve like finding number codes or remembering and repeating a sequence of events. And as I mentioned, every thing you do or don’t do or choose to say affects future scenes and decision – this idea of cause and effect is what the game is built around.

Unfortunately (and this seems to be a common and very loud complaint) is that the game will lead you to make one of two choices to finish. There are no alternative endings at all. So regardless of whatever choices you make throughout the game and how you change the journey within the storyline, you will always come back to one specific decision at the end. And that kinda sucks because unless you’re the type of person who likes to unlock every achievement possible and get the best stats, you’re not likely to want to replay. I have no problems with either of the endings but just felt bummed that regardless of how I chose throughout the game, it didn’t really matter. But that was a very small gripe in what was ultimately a very enjoyable experience.

Getting down to the technical nitty-gritty, the mechanics of the game are a little clunky. I do have to say that the drag-click thing with the mouse is annoying but if you happen to be playing this on a console, you have the option of hitting buttons which is obviously easier. (I was playing on the PC version.) Other than that, you move Max around with the typical WASD keys and steer with the mouse.

Life is Strange is available through Steam. You can buy the first episode, “Chrysalis”, for a fiver and if you like it you can buy the rest for $17USD. I finished the whole thing in about 15 hours of game play. Not bad for a little indie game. Not bad at all.

A solid 8/10.

Important note: The game has been found to be triggering for some people as it deals with illness, drugs and suicide. If you’re particularly sensitive to these concepts, steer clear. The game is also rated M for obvious reasons.