Saturday, 31 January 2015

Raucous Reviews: Life is Strange: Episode 1

Female protagonists. I could go on and on, applauding Dontnod for using female protagonists in their episodic adventure Life is Strange, but I won't. However, I will applaud the French developers for making down-to-earth, believable protagonists: Max and Chloe are some very well-written characters that drive the story forward, as well as having a good backstory, along with a cast of other interesting (Yet slightly stereotypical) characters.

The majority of Episode 1 is spent in Rockwell College (In the fictional Arcadia Bay) where Max has a vision in her class. After, she sees a girl shot and killed before her eyes, but realizes that she has the ability to rewind time. I won't reveal any more of the story, but it's safe to say that, while believable and exciting in parts, it seems to not know its focus: it's a coming of age story, a reunification, a detective game and a supernatural thriller all rolled into one, so hopefully in the next episodes Dontnod will know which direction to go in.

The biggest, headline mechanic in Life is Strange is also the story's focal point: reversing time. Holding down the right mouse button (Or whatever controller button you're using) takes Max back in time, but only up until the time you entered the room or area. Major decisions are marked on the HUD, so you don't reverse too far back, and the device isn't just a one-trick pony: there are many different uses for the ability, including making the right dialogue choices, learning new information for use in the past, dodging obstacles and undoing mistakes. Occassionally it seems a little overplayed, but it's a stable and well-used mechanic.

The rest of the gameplay is mainly dialogue trees and inspecting objects around the areas you explore. Obvious conclusions can be drawn to Telltale games, but once again it's a mechanic that is well used and not out-of-place: Max's character and personality develops and opens up the more you interact with others around her college and with Chloe.

The art style is nice, too: slightly cartoony, but the particles and areas still look beautiful, particularly at sunset in some of the game's later moments. Most objects, computer screens, posters and leaflets are all hand-drawn by Dontnod's artists, which gives a nice Tearaway-esque vibe to the game. Still, I did experience some choppy framerates at times, I had one experience of water flickering and a couple of times the dialogue was out of sync, but those can easiliy be fixed with patches.

I won't be giving Life is Strange a score until it finishes around the end of this year, but I can still heartily recommend it. The price is a steal, with the game being £4 an episode or £16 for all 5, and, despite the technical hitches, the dialogue, characters and attention to detail means that Life is Strange is one to watch for this year. If you're looking for a game that you want to lose yourself in and learn a new story, then give Life is Strange a whack. 

Thanks to Premier Comms for sending us as Steam review code.

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