Life Is Strange is an episodic graphic adventure video game developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix's European subsidiary for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Linux, iOS and Android. The first installment of the Life is Strange franchise, the game was released in five episodes periodically throughout 2015.
Life is Strange has already garnered a well-deserved reputation as one of the best adventure games to adopt the third-person adventure style popularized by Telltale Studios’ work — itself heavily inspired by classic point-and-click titles of the 1990s — and without doubt one of the finest examples of a coming of age story in gaming.
Time Traveling Teenager:
The plot focuses on Max Caulfield, an 18-year-old photography student who on top of the struggles of navigating Blackwell’s social minefield, capturing quirky snaps for a possibly life-changing photography competition, and trying to get her head around some ominous premonitions, Max’s life gets a lot weirder after she suddenly gains the ability to rewind time and effectively reshape the world around her.
Before long, Max’s powers thrust her into a whirlwind journey complete with a compelling murder mystery and eerie (un)natural phenomenons. However, the story remains grounded thanks to its central relationship between Max and her estranged BFF, Chloe Price.
Brought to life by Ashly Burch’s incredible voice performance, Chloe is the rebellious, hella cool heart of Life is Strange and the game is at its best in the less action-heavy episodes in which the outcast pair rekindle their lost friendship and generally laze around doing quintessentially teenage stuff. Max and Chloe used to be best friends, but fell out of touch. After the incident, the two reconnect, and Chloe enlists Max's help in searching for her other friend, Rachel, who recently went missing. Arcadia Bay has troubles of its own. A once prosperous fishing town, it's fallen on hard times. It's also beset by a series of weird 'eco-disasters'—everything from snow in the middle of summer, to an unscheduled eclipse. It's heavily implied that these disasters are supernatural and potentially apocalyptic. The students of Blackwell are even planning an "End of the World" party—a metaphor with all the subtlety of a bull smashing into the coming-of-age shelf of a DVD store, a copy of The Rules of Attraction impaled on one horn.
In gameplay terms, the time travel element of the game lets you rewind key sequences and decisions to see multiple outcomes, which is unique spin on the usual “this person will remember that” style of conversations in so many adventure games. As a whole, Life is Strange retains the light puzzle and detective elements of its genre peers, but rises to the top of the pile through its storytelling and character work.
Where it shines:
Life Is Strange is at its best when focusing on the characters. Initially archetypes, each gains depth and motivation as the story moves forward. Max's enemies have vulnerabilities, and her allies flaws. There's a quiet beauty to Life Is Strange that is a big part of the reason it's stuck with me since the first episode. For all its missteps, the atmosphere it creates is pitch perfect. It looks gorgeous – rendered in a painterly, hyperreal style that seems to effortlessly create memorable moments. Images as simple as Max sitting contemplatively in someone's kitchen can feel poignant and vulnerable.