Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Episodic Graphic Adventure
Mode(s): Single Player
Perspective: Third person
Platform Played: PC
Final Score: 9/10
I purchased this game without having done much research on it beforehand because it was on sale and “it looked cool”. While normally it takes a little bit more to persuade me to make a purchase, my inherently impulsive nature really did me a solid with Life Is Strange: Episode One. For $4.99, I figured I couldn’t really regret it – and with Steam’s new refund policy, I couldn’t really think of a good reason to say no!
The game is split into 5 episodes that are released roughly every 8 weeks. Beginning in January of 2015, the game is now on its 3rd episode – with a hopeful crowd of anticipating players hoping for a mid-July release of Episode 4!
The beginning of the game is very dramatic, and it pulled me in immediately. The whole first episode serves as an introduction to the world of Max Caulfield, a Holden-inspired 18-year-old Senior at Blackwell Academy. A fan of photography and indie music, Max wakes up in the middle of an intense storm without knowing how she ended up there, and the tension and anxiety felt during the first few moments really connect you to her point of view.
In each new scene, you are able to explore and revisit different areas of Arcadia Bay, Oregon – from Blackwell Academy’s classrooms and hallways, to student dormitories, the town’s diner, a secret junkyard and other smaller areas that are in between. Each new area has its own set of objects to interact with and both students and faculty to talk to or hear Max’s observations about.
The game has a full cast of characters that you get to know and form different relationships with throughout each episode. Although a lot of these characters fill familiar stereotypes that are often found in high school set stories, the ability to choose from different options and decide how to interact with them is definitely unique. As Max, you can choose to treat the Queen Bee (for B****, naturally – Victoria puts Regina George to shame!) with dignity or contempt during one of her lower moments, and there are also other small side choices that you can complete with various characters throughout each scene.
After figuring out the basic mechanics of interacting with your surroundings as Max, the drama of the game will start to pick up again. One of the most unique parts of this game is that Max has the special ability of time manipulation, and you’ll learn about it with her as she discovers it. Rewinding and eventually pausing time to manipulate situations is a lot of fun, and some of the smaller “puzzles” throughout the episodes rely on this technique of rewinding time to overcome certain obstacles and difficulties.
Throughout the game, you will see many nods and references to pop culture – almost every vehicle in game features a license plate code that corresponds to a popular television show (Twin Peaks, The X-Files and Breaking Bad are a few of my favorite mentions!) and the conversations between some characters include lots of film and comic book namedropping.
The soundtrack to each episode is worth mentioning – composer Jonathan Morali works to accompany each scene with music that really sets the tone and atmosphere of the game. Other popular bands and musicians have also contributed in some of the licensed music used throughout the game, such as Amanda Palmer, Bright Eyes and Mogwai. I think the music is what really makes the gaming experience for Life Is Strange – while it’s fun to play, and interesting to learn more of the mysteries involved, the soundtrack really makes the game feel like a long TV series you’ve just marathoned or a movie you’ve recently seen instead of something played. Some of my favorite parts so far from the game have been the parts that I’m not even doing anything – I’m just watching a long cutscene with an overlay of pretty music that really feels like I’m a part of what’s going on.
Another neat aspect of the game is that at the end of each episode, a list of the choices you made (from your interactions with your surroundings) is created and it ranks your choices against what the majority of players – or your own playing friends – have made. Even something as small as watering your plant makes a difference to your game!
Each episode has a set of collectibles to unlock – you can do this by taking specific photos throughout the game when the prompt shows in your interactions area. The Tab menu in-game will give you a hint on some of these, but they’re not always easy to find. Don’t worry though – you can revist each scene in Collectible Mode specifically for the purpose of traveling back to unlock these photos! Another great perk is that each of these Collectibles unlocks a Steam Achievement if you’re playing the PC version like I am!
Although Max is the main playable character, in later episodes she is often accompanied by other people – mainly, Chloe. As childhood friends that grew apart, the dynamic of their relationship is one a lot of people can probably relate to. They’re very different people, so getting to know them has been interesting – Max is more reserved and introspective, and Chloe is a bit more wild and impulsive. The scenes involving their interactions have been some of my favorites, and I’m excited to see what other things they get into – and what questions they’re able to answer.
Another layer to the game is the underlying mystery surrounding one of the characters that went missing 6 months prior to Max’s arrival at Blackwell – Rachel Amber. Missing posters litter the school and town bulletin boards, and the whole thing gives the game a very Twin Peaks/Veronica Mars-esque feel. What happened to her, and where is she? Talking to characters around the town and school will give you different angles and answers, but no real truths are out yet (as of the 3rd episode!).
I’m really excited to find out what happens in the final 2 episodes – I’ve tried to take my time with this, but I am dying to know what happens! It’s so much fun, and some of the environments are so gorgeous and detailed that I spend ages looking at every little detail.
I can’t recommend this enough – stop reading this review and go play it! It’s inexpensive, and it doesn’t require any fancy computer capabilities to play – my computer is sorely due for an upgrade and runs this beautifully. It’d be perfect for a laptop!
And since it is so accessible and I think this game is so great, I’d like to give a copy of Life Is Strange: Episode One to one lucky winner for FREE! 😀
Starting today, June 18th, and lasting all the way until the last day of the month, you can enter to win a copy of the game for free!
You can enter in a couple of different ways, and there is one more stipulation: You must have a Steam account and be able to accept gifts.
Follow this link for the giveaway – it’s on the blog’s Facebook page!
Edit: GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED!
Congrats to RICHARD K. for winning!
I hope you like the game as much as I have – the ending of episode 3 is INTENSE! 😀 I can’t wait for the final two episodes.
Good luck to everyone that entered and thank you!