Life is strange, we all know that, but I'm not gonna talk about life because I don't think I can ever fully understand it. Instead, I will do some writing about another video game titled Life is Strange.
It catched my attention several months ago when it hasn't released yet, the title summed it all up. The fact that it's made by a French game studio and published by Square Enix convinced me enough to buy the game. So basically it's an episodic indie movie packed in a story-driven interactive video game, but I can alter the ending because choice matters. A lot of my actions will affect the world around the game in ways that are hard to predict.
The first season consists of 5 episodes, 3 episodes have been released in about five months timeframe which means each episode is released in about every 2 months. The wait is too long for me to remember every action I took in previous episode, but the game has its success in a way that many players will wait another episode to continue the game because of the incomplete story. So, I have played 3 episodes and I'm totally into this game. It put the emphasis into the story and character, while many people complained about the gameplay. The music, nah, I've never been so chilled with any game soundtracks but this one. There are several licensed tracks from indie bands.
[Spoiler Alert] So, I'm playing as Max Caulfield, a rather hipster teenage female student at Blackwell Academy who always carries a polaroid camera. Set in Arcadia Bay, a fictional town in modern day Oregon, witnessing the death of a long lost friend, she discovered that she has an ability to rewind through space and time for several minutes, but retaining the awareness of events, though in some occasions she lost the power. She uses the power to "fix mistakes" by rewinding time and do the "right thing", as in the butterfly effect, every action has its own consequences. While the first episode was calming, the later episodes were depressing, from school bullies to saving your friend from jumping off the school rooftop, preventing your best friend's father's death while in alternate reality it leads to tragic event to your best friend that totally changed the course of her life. It brings nostalgic memories and feelings that are hard to forget because I need to memorize every clues and actions I took. The combination of the graphic, story, and the music gave me goosebumps while having emotional rollercoaster at the same time. They even have a page on their site if you have mental problem as the side effect of the game http://lifeisstrange.com/talk/
Update for episode 3: Though I know the story is purely fictional, the in-game events still haunt me. I need to regain my sanity.
I bet the season ending will shed tears for real. Be sure not to get too attached with the character.
Update for episode 4: This game gave me nightmares, 10 out of 10!
Update for episode 5: I cried.
Of all video games I have played, this game does better job at making me attached and emotionally invested, perhaps because I can relate to Max in some ways, her socially awkward trait, self-aware but still jokes about being pretentious. The overall environment is believable, not consists of some aliens or robots. The final nightmare part was very strong, I'm sure I'm not the only one who can relate to that.
I'm a bit surprised that many game critics gave relatively low rating to the final episode. I do think that some of them fall into expectations trap from previous episodes which have major cliffhanger and plot twists not found in the last episode. Some of them compare this game to Telltale's games. I have played one Telltale game (The Wolf Among Us), I can tell you that Telltale took the idea from established series then put well known premade character into story-based game, this didn't happen to Life is Strange which came from fresh idea and new character, for this part I prefer Dontnod's way.
Many people will complain about things left unexplained after the ending, for me that's a good thing because it's up to my mind to imagine anything possible.
Kudos to Dontnod Entertaintment for making such beautiful game.
P.S. This is a review from a casual player perspective, which is always biased.