<div class=header> <div class=headerrow> <div class=headercell> <div class=headerlogo> <p class=image><a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/logo/hg101logo.png" alt="Logo by MP83"></a></p> </div> <div class=headerad> <script type="text/javascript"><!-- google_ad_client = "pub-5230184257141993"; /* HG101 */ google_ad_slot = "4961941287"; google_ad_width = 728; google_ad_height = 90; //--> </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js"> </script> </div> </div> </div> <div class=headerrow> <div class=headercell> <div class=headermenu> <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/alpha.htm" target="_parent">Articles</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/features.htm" target="_parent">Features</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/books.htm" target="_parent">Books</a> | <a href="http://blog.hardcoregaming101.net" target="_parent">Blog</a> | <a href="http://hg101.proboards.com/" target="_parent">Forums</a> | <a href="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/about.htm" target="_parent">About</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hardcore-Gaming-101/109837535712670" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/facebook.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/HG_101" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/twitter.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://ask.fm/hg_101" target="_blank"><img alt=" " src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/askfm.png"></a>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.patreon.com/hg101" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/supportsmalla.png"></a> </div> <div class=searchbox> <form action="http://www.google.com/cse" id="cse-search-box" target="_parent"> <div> <input type="hidden" name="cx" value="partner-pub-5230184257141993:xfg3mydy24k"> <input type="hidden" name="ie" value="ISO-8859-1"> <input type="text" name="q" size="30"> <input type="submit" name="sa" value="Search"> </div> </form> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.google.com/coop/cse/brand?form=cse-search-box&amp;lang=en"></script> </div> </div> </div> </div>

<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Life is Strange
Characters

Page 2:
Life is Strange pt.2

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index


by Erika Bee - June 9, 2016

Life is Strange - Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One (2015)

Windows PC Cover (US)

Note: Life is Strange is a story-driven game. This article may contain minor spoilers, and is best read after completing the game.

When we think of games, it's often simplistic puzzlers, cute platformers or explosive action titles that come to mind. Which is no huge surprise, as games have traditionally been sold as entertainment or toys. Their capacity to give us fun, thrilling and joyful experiences is very well-established at this point, but throughout the years developers have quietly honed their artistry, using their work for self-expression. It isn't true anymore to say that very few games have touched on the human condition. However, most that do merely flirt with the idea, or imbue what would otherwise be boilerplate science fiction or fantasy with a degree of endearing humanity. Very few games say anything about life in a way that creates much relatability or resonates with our non-geek sides. For years, video games have been seen as mere toys, and once developers began to explore their potential to be more, many opted to aim for entirely new experiences rather than work with more established mechanics. What emerged are titles like Gone Home or Dear Esther, often half-derisively described as "walking simulators," for their lack of familiar game structures. These games are worth celebrating for expanding what the medium can be, and have their own strengths and drawbacks, but for a little while, the idea of employing more traditional mechanics in service of telling a story felt forgotten as artists made intricate but solitary environments, big-budget developers rushed to out-Hollywood each other, and indies wallowed in 8-bit nostalgia.

Life is Strange occupies an interesting place in the medium. Its point-and-click DNA is easy to spot and its central mechanic is similar to tricks employed by some of the most celebrated traditional games, but it turns all of these toward telling a story that's more about longing, regret and ordinary life than fighting an Evil Empire, saving a fantasy world or embarking on a quest for revenge.

Max, chillaxed

Developed by French studio Dontnod Entertainment, whose previous title had been the future noir cyberpunk oddity Remember Me, and published by Square Enix, Life is Strange was released in 2015 in five serialized episodes. Each installment takes about three hours to complete and follows a TV episode format with plenty of melancholy montages, dramatic climaxes and agonizing teaser endings. Early episodes were marred by poor lip-syncing, uneven writing and a number of game-breaking bugs, but most of these issues got addressed in future releases or fixed in patches. Critical response to the game has been largely positive, although incredibly divisive - something probably owed more to the game's touching on so many taboo or mundane topics than anything reflective of its quality.

Life is Strange is more a story that happens to be a game, than a game that happens to tell a story. That's not to say the game itself is lacking in interactivity, but it's always apparent that narrative drives the mechanics. In some ways, it's a bit chimerical; it wears its narrative influences proudly on its sleeve, but so too does it wear its roots in traditional gameplay. Other recent story-driven games have been criticized for telling stories in past-tense through characters that function as passive observers, as well as choices that don't seem to matter in the end. Life is Strange shares a bit more in common with European adventure games than these other titles, and takes an approach that skirts either issue. By giving players a well-defined protagonist and detailed environments to explore peopled with a variety of characters, the game establishes a greater sense of presence, sidestepping the issue of a story received through journal entries and memoirs. While some of its choices may look arbitrary, it's careful to make sure every action sparks a reaction, so decisions will generally feel meaningful even if players can't dramatically alter a scenario.

The story follows Max Caulfield, an ordinary if somewhat taciturn teenager attending Blackwell Academy, a special arts and sciences academy for high school seniors in the U.S. Pacific Northwest town of Arcadia Bay. As a budding photographer, Max is always on the lookout for the next great shot. Which is how she ends up lingering long enough to witness the murder of another girl in the school's toilets - and in her shock and denial, incidentally discovers she has the power to rewind time. The temptation to fix mistakes, however great or small, is immediate and immediately acted upon, as Max rushes back to the bathroom to change history. Haunted by visions of an apocalyptic Storm and increasingly aware of bizarre ecological phenomena, Max teams up with her freshly un-murdered friend to unravel the mysteries of Blackwell and her own powers. What unfolds from this premise is something closer to Twin Peaks, Donnie Darko or a Gregg Araki film than a stereotypical videogame plot, balancing a sense of apocalyptic urgency with a wistful feeling of everyday life. As much teen drama as science fiction, Life is Strange aims for a sense of reality most games are afraid to touch, dealing with surprisingly real topics like depression, disability, sexual assault, suicide, financial hardship, rocky relationships and pining for childhood simplicity, with enough slices of life to make a whole pie. Even when it falters, it has to be admired for sheer ambition and uniqueness.

Aesthetically, the game opts for stylized photorealism, with impressionistic blurring of details and distances. Anything where painful levels of detail might be expected in an HD game instead look literally painted-on. Visually, it's a nice compromise between realism and fantasy. As progress is made, Max will fill out a wholly gorgeous scrapbook-style journal filled with doodles, notes and photos that ends up being far more elaborate than it needed to be as a functional quest log. Little details like this are unnecessary to the core game, but add up to make a more believable world. Aurally, the game features music by many well-known artists like Sparklehorse, Mogwai and Amanda Palmer, as well as an original score by Jonathan Morali. Most of the soundtrack falls within a soft, melancholic "indie" sound that suits the game incredibly well.

Gameplay is simple, intuitive and substantial enough to provide things to do without ever allowing the focus to drift from story. The influence of point-and-click adventure titles is immediately obvious. Objects that can be interacted with are highlighted and labeled in a style resembling diagrams for school notes. Conversations follow a typical four-way dialogue tree. The interface is designed with controllers in mind, allowing for better streamlining and far less pixel-hunting. A few moments require locating specific items which are usually logically placed, but sometimes...not so much. These lapses into adventure game logic are few, and the game mostly uses the item hunts as an excuse to have the player explore the environment, but a couple do end up feeling like filler.

A small number of more traditional puzzles appear here and there, most of which are startlingly logical and can be solved fairly enough with a little thought. Conversing, leisurely exploring environments and rifling through various bits and bobs - letters, bills, journals, household objects, etc. - in a Shenmue-like fashion, makes up the bulk of interaction, and often provides small glimpses into the wider world or heads of others. Though never in a hurry to move the player along to the next event, a fairly wide variety of gameplay gets employed (there's even an awkward stealth sequence, near the end). Luckily, most of whatever you're doing is directly relevant to the narrative - conversations can be redone with insights gleaned during a prior "instance," incidental items will sometimes have obvious significance to the story and going through other people's stuff grants greater understanding of their lives in an around-the-edges manner unique to games. This last aspect often helps fill in some gaps in characterization, and contributes to how well-realized the game's cast is.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Baptiste Moisan
  • Raoul Barbet
  • Michel Koch
  • Christian Divine

Genre:

Themes:

Life is Strange (Windows)

Life is Strange (Windows)

Life is Strange (Windows)

Life is Strange (Windows)

Life is Strange (Windows)


View all "Life is Strange" items on eBay


Characters

Max Caulfield

The time-traveling teenage protagonist, Max is something of a geek everygirl, nerdy and shy without being actively antisocial. A well-drawn character without too many problems of her own, she still has enough personality not to be simply a player cipher. Prone to outbursts of, "Wowser!"

Chloe Price

Max's childhood best friend, Chloe is an outgoing and adventurous foil to the more reserved Max. Initially introduced by witnessing and then preventing her murder, she comes to be the most central character alongside Max. While happy to be reunited with best friend, Chloe does have a lot of believable resentment toward Max for not keeping in touch, and gets some fairly extensive character development throughout the game.

Nathan Prescott

Chloe's would-be murderer, Nathan is the son of powerful and wealthy real estate mogul Sean Prescott. Used to getting his way, emotionally unstable, implicit in all sorts of sketchy goings on, Nathan acts as an antagonist for most of the game. He is eventually humanized somewhat, though still kind of a monster.

Victoria Chase

Prototypical "mean girl," Victoria immediately tries to push Max's buttons. Alongside Nathan, Victoria largely acts as an antagonist, but is occasionally shown as a more complex person, and may be almost friendly with Max if treated delicately.

Kate Marsh

Max's quiet, keeps-to-herself Christian classmate, Kate has been bullied and harassed by other students for some time before the game begins. As she opens up, it becomes apparent she's dealing with several difficult situations.

Warren Graham

Chemistry student and something of a nerd mentor to Max, Warren often acts as your adviser and co-sidekick. Edged out of Max's life by her reunion with Chloe just a bit, Warren is the ever-faithful painfully obvious hopeless romantic who's always got Max's back. Though he could have ended up a creepy Nice Guy?, Warren mostly serves to be genuinely helpful regardless of how a situation affects him.

David Madsen

Chloe's "step-douche" (step-father) and head of Blackwell security, David is a returning combat veteran still readjusting to civilian life. Although brusque and quick to jump to conclusions, he does care about Chloe and may know more than he lets on about the school's darker secrets.

Mark Jefferson

Already a famous photographer, Mr. Jefferson is in the process of settling in as Blackwell's photography teacher. Friendly, knowledgeable and well-dressed, Mr. Jefferson is a popular pedagogue who hits a number of liberal arts professor cliches.

Rachel Amber

Life is Strange's own Laura Palmer is all things to all people. Nearly everyone in town knew her, and nearly everyone saw a completely different side of her. Adored by any who remember her, Rachel vanished sometime before Max returned to Arcadia Bay, and uncovering the details of her disappearance takes up the largest portion of the Mystery Solving component of the game.


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Life is Strange
Characters

Page 2:
Life is Strange pt.2


Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index