Gaming Insights: Life is Strange

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Life is Strange is an interactive, graphic indie video game that is broken down into five episodes. The game follows Maxine Caulfield, a photography student that learns she has the ability to rewind time. Your new choices influence short or long term circumstances and sometimes, changing the past can produce ominous situations. Dialogue can be rewound and items can be brought along with you through time. You can interact with your surrounding objects and your rewind ability depends on your checkpoints. If you want to know our take on Life is Strange, we have put together these reviews for you to read:

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“Life is Strange is a bright and visually beautiful game with an ominous, mysterious underlining that is disclosed to the gamer in later episodes. The story takes place in Arcadia Bay with your main character, Max Caufield. Max is a photography student at Blackwell Academy. The fact that Max is into photography helps add a warm, pleasing, and fresh vibe to its already artistically hand painted quality. Life is Strange seems to have a more unique but fitting approach to its genre, where the stories are very realistic, dealing with real world issues, and making the characters convincingly believable.

Although the game is slow paced, it does a great job at creating an engaging relationship between the characters and yourself. It allows the player to get very intimate with the storyline as it makes the scenes all too relatable. The characters’ voices are casted by a fantastic team and are eerily familiar, which is important where the script and narratives have a significant impact. The sound track is quite amazing and adds beauty to the scenes, environment, and characters. Besides these aspects, the creators added a Sci-Fi element where you have the ability to rewind time. Upon changing your previous choices, this results in different consequences and unusual experiences. Rewinding time is an awesome ability that many of us wish we could possess in our everyday lives, wouldn’t you agree?

Although only three episodes of the five have been released, you can’t help but grow up with the characters in each episode. I personally can not wait for the upcoming episodes. I enjoyed many aspects of the game and strongly recommend it, particularly if you are looking for a change of pace from your everyday shoot’em up simulator. Hella good game that I would give 4 out of 5 stars.”

-James Cairns aka @IrishWarrior022

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“As the gap between the gaming and film industry grows smaller, creators are not only making games to be played, but producing ones that create an experience. We’ve seen some recent games that are impressive cinematics. While many people are branding them as dull ‘interactive movies’, some games are getting it right. In my opinion, these are having a positive impact on the way the industry approaches storytelling. Personally, I believe that Life is Strange is one great example, whose aim is to be a meaningful, story driven experience.

The obvious comparison for Life is Strange is, of course, ‘The Walking Dead’, and they share a lot of similarities. Both are story driven games that rely on your choices to influence the world. Both games are released in an episodic, TV like series with continuing characters and plots. Instead of deciding whether to chop off someone’s leg (like in The Walking Dead), Life is Strange is noticeably more laid back. It’s emphasizes on the seemingly small, insignificant things in the world and how you respond to them rather than huge climactic moments (spoilers: it has its fair share of them!) This is something I feel the game simply got right and the atmosphere and attention to detail is where it truly shines. The music and the art style fit seamlessly into the world, and if you have the time, there’s always more to interact with. Rather than life and death situations, we’re often asked to choose between friendship and betrayal, standing up for our beliefs, or backing down.

The ‘time travel’ mechanic is one of the most important parts of the game, and although it was an interesting idea, I was a bit skeptical at first.  The ability to rewind time works well, and allows for players to see the potential consequences of their actions, and allows for informed decisions. We can ‘test run’ every option before we finally choose one, and it’s genuinely enjoyable to cheat the system. What surprised me was the fact that I didn’t end up using it too much though there are certain points where you are required to use that ability in order to move the story forward. Despite this, the puzzles aren’t overly challenging, and are more of an obstacle before you go on with the story.

While it’s interesting to see what different responses you can get with other characters, it felt redundant to use the ‘time travel’ mechanic. Even after choosing another answer, the outcome was largely the same, and at times, it almost felt like the game ignored your choice, and carried on with its predefined story. The choices I made didn’t feel morally taxing, because I could always try it again. Sometimes, this ruined the feeling of having consequences like moral guilt or panic.  Other times, the game told us our actions ‘will have consequences’ but it really felt like the illusion of choice. The game didn’t force you to make quick and difficult decisions. In fact, it gave you infinite time to mull over your options and really let you get to know the characters. I started to find myself saying: ‘It doesn’t matter. I can go back’ every time I made a decision. For a choice based game, this might be possibly one of the worst things for a player. These games are entirely dependent on morally taxing decisions, and certain emotions are experienced once the player knows they’ve made an irrevocable choice. Knowing every possible outcome partly ruins the importance of your response, and serves to lose some of the narrative weight.  On the plus side, one thing that was done really well was that after each episode, the decisions you made were saved. Even if you didn’t see the impact in that episode, the consequences were surely going to be felt later.

Despite the problems with the time travel system, time traveling is a unique and interesting mechanic. I’m really glad the creators were brave enough to incorporate this into the game. During certain parts, Max’s power can give you hidden insights into a whole other untapped branch of the story. Without her time traveling power, Max would just be an ordinary teenager, which would lose one of the best aspects of the game: highlighting that life is strange and the strangest things can happen to the most ordinary of people.

While some might criticize the game for it’s lack of visual realism, (most notably the lip sync animations), I believe that this is all part of the game’s charm. The art style, while they aren’t mind blowing graphics, is striking in it’s own way. It fits the atmosphere the game is trying to create. Even if I was so lofty that it ‘bothered’ me, I’d be prepared to ignore it for the sake of such an engaging story and well thought out characters.

The prevailing qualities of Life is Strange are its very real and human experiences. Max is a highly relatable character, and so are the others she meets along the way. Even the ‘Bitch queen’ of the school Victoria is humanized.  The game does an incredibly good job at the small details: you can wander around and meet each of the characters, and there are always opportunities to find secrets if you only take the time to look. Many people are already invested in the storyline and to an even greater extent, the relationship between the characters. With the episodic releases of Life is Strange, this is something that will only grow, and I can’t wait for the next part to be released.

I don’t feel that it’s right to give a definitive verdict, as Life is Strange hasn’t yet shown us all it has to offer. However, this is an overwhelmingly promising series with one of the most beautifully crafted worlds and storytelling narratives in my many years of gaming.”

-Dawn Whisper aka @Dawnwhisper09

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“Yes! I have enjoyed Life is Strange. I loved the 2nd episode even more than the 1st, as it had even more interesting developments.

Compared to other games in its genre, it’s slower paced than the Telltale series. This is normal as it develops a completely new story, and a build up is required. The graphics are a lot better compared to the others I’ve played, which adds a lot to the game and makes up for the slow story evolution (mostly, the 1st episode).

I haven’t really encountered any problems with the game. There were some moments where you had to follow a sequence of actions that felt a bit dumb and unnecessary. I would change those. Like, make it so that the action bits are not too random but still important to the story.

Because the story is quite straight forward, I do not have any tips to offer at this time. If you like a dramatic, very atmosferic and story driven game…sure, you should buy the game right now! I would rate this game a 7/10.”

-Tania Derveaux aka @TaniaUncensored

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“I am enjoying Life is Strange very much. Its strong points are in the setting and the plot. The characters are extremely believable and the emotive connection between the player and them is created almost immediately. The main protagonist is a classical narrative archetype: the “reluctant hero”, who suddenly realizes that her world is in danger and that she has a great power. And like the good old Peter Parker, she will discover the responsibility which comes with that power. So the premise is not original at all, but the story ingredients are mixed together wisely and the cake is baking well (and it is not a lie).

The game involves different choices, and there are many forks in its plot road. So it can be compared, for example, to Telltale games. But the original setting, in my opinion, makes LIS slightly better than them. A direct comparison can be done with Dreamfall Chapters, another great adventure heavily based on its story. DC has a grandiose fantasy plot that involves saving two worlds, while LIS scope is more limited. On the other hand, LIS has a fantastic soundtrack and a captivating, hand-painted graphical style. I think that their match is a tie.

The game is very polished and I have found no major bugs. Some minor issues have been patched quickly. A “problem” I have encountered, but it is actually a virtue, is that the dialogues are full of juvenile jargon and doublespeaks. It makes the characters alive and believable, but a foreign player like me, with a limited knowledge of English (or French), could encounter some difficulties. Luckily, fan-made translations of the game subtitles are already available for many different languages. Some players have complained that lip-sync is bad, but in my opinion, this is a minor issue.

I can’t think of a major feature I would change. Like all episodic games, a real analysis should be done only after the complete release, but until now, I like what I am seeing. In terms of game play, puzzles could be more complex or demanding, but the focus is on the story, not on rubber chickens with pulleys in the middle.

It’s hard to highlight specific moments without spoiling the plot. The game starts with a literal boom that introduces the supernatural tornado, which acts as the main antagonist. The scene when Max discovers her powers for the first time reminds me of Spiderman, even if this time there is a butterfly instead of a spider. And the end of Episode 2 will make you cry… maybe of joy, maybe of sorrow, but tears, there will be.

The game has a feature that, in my opinion, is not enough known or publicized: the “collectible mode”. In certain scenes, the protagonist can take optional pictures with her instant camera. These pictures appears in her album and act as achievements or trophies for the various game platforms (Playstation, Xbox, Steam). If you missed some pictures, you can reload a specific scene in collectible mode. The choices you made in the main game will be preserved and not overwritten. Great feature!

I definitely recommend this game. Of course, like all episodic games, someone prefers to wait until all episodes have been released, but this game deserves to be played bit by bit like a TV show. We all hope that the narrative will stay strong and captivating until the end, but this is a risk intrinsic to all games, episodic or not (Mass Effect anyone?). I trust the developers and the writers!

I don’t like aseptic, numeric grades. They seem slightly out of place for a complex story like LIS. On a range from “Not even as a gift” to “I can’t live without it,” it is definitely near the “Masterpiece” notch. Soundtrack is awesome, the plot fascinating, the graphical style original and fresh. Do you still want a number? Ok, 92% and that’s a deal.”

-Giorgio Borgo aka @ksabers

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Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to review Life is Strange. This game was developed by Dontnod Entertainment, and is available for Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Episode 3 of Life is Strange was released on May 19, 2015. If you want to stay updated on more Gamer Compatible reviews, you can follow us on Twitter: @gamercompatible or on Facebook: @gamercompatible.

Game on! And signing out.

Images taken from Life is Strange’s Instagram account.

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