Simply put, Life is Strange is the very best storytelling game I have ever played. It’s also one of the only games to ever incite emotions in me that aren’t anger and frustration – the only other game I can say has done so being The Walking Dead: Season 1. I’ve recognised many attempts in my gaming history where games have tried to get me to shed a tear or cause a lump to form in my throat; Final Fantasy 7 for example, but I find nearly all games are too heavy handed in this regard and overstate moments that should be immense and handled with delicacy. Life is Strange nails it though; it really makes you care about its cast of characters. It makes you want the best for them and it upsets you when bad things happen. It doesn’t over-do it too, and the moments that are really supposed to affect you do. But I’m getting way ahead of myself so let me go back a bit.
Life is Strange is a storytelling game very similar to TellTales series of games like afore mentioned Walking Dead. You play as a high school student called Max, who gets wrapped up in an evil plot involving kidnapping, cover ups, murder and more. She teams up with her childhood friend, Chloe, and the two are taken through 5 episodes, in which they attempt to solve the mystery and catch the people responsible. Much like other games of its ilk, Life is Strange is all about making choices in the things that you say and do but, unlike other games in the genre, Max has the ability to rewind short periods of time to do those choices over, so if you think you’ve made a bad decision or think you could have handled a situation better you can have another go at it until you get your desired outcome. One thing that I love about this mechanic is how Max constantly made me second guess myself. After I thought I’d made the right choice her internal monologue would pipe up and cast doubt on whatever action I had just taken and because I became so heavily invested in the characters and story so quickly, I found myself in many situations where I would replay events three or four times before I unconfidently landed on what I hoped was the right choice. And it really does feel that every choice has a consequence; they don’t all add up to the finale of the game, but choices you make early on affect things that happen later on in the game, forcing you to rethink or adapt your strategy for dealing with various characters.
At this point I really don’t want to say to much more about mechanics or plot because the beauty if this game is the story, which is magnificent. Rarely do I care about the narrative of a game. Usually the narrative is the excuse to do the activity I have purchased the game to do, but in Life is Strange story is everything. I read a lot and this game has more in common with a great book than it does a great game. It has that key ingredient that great novels contain that keep you reading into the small hours of the night, unable to put your bookmark in and settle down for the night. Proof of that being that I finished the last episode of Life is Strange at 1:40am in the morning and I never ever stay up past 11:30pm. I just had to finish this game though, the climax is so worth it too and I got that sense of loss that you get from great works of art when you realise there is no more story to tell.
A couple of other things to mention; the game is very pretty. The developers opted for an almost illustrated style, which makes scenery and landscapes look breath-taking at times. There are a few opportunities in the game to witness sunsets and they’re something you have to stop and take in. Admittedly, character models can look a bit awkward and robotic sometimes, but they’re all well detailed and unique. Yes, they’re somewhat clichéd to American high-school stereotypes, but I really didn’t mind and it was actually really fun to play a game that had the jock, the geek, the outcast and the bully as it’s something I can’t recall seeing in a game before.
Finally, the music. I have never played a game in my life with such a well put together soundtrack. The music sets the tone of the game perfectly and accompanies the emo over tones of the story and it’s really well used. Music is played by characters (on their stereo or on their headphones) at key moments to help absorb the player into the world and it works so well. You can tell straight from the off that the soundtrack for this game was put together by a passionate team, who understand what kind of game they are making and how individual pieces of music can make a particular scene even more impactful.
So there you have it. I realise despite all of my ramblings that this game won’t be for everyone. If you really don’t like these storytelling games or have an aversion to teen fiction like John Green (The Fault in Our Stars & Paper Towns) then you probably won’t get into this BUT if you do or you’ve never taken the plunge on one of these story driven types of games then I strongly urge you to try Life is Strange. There is a free demo and the first episode is less than a fiver. It’s a beautiful story that has been superbly told and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll absolutely fall in love with it.