thu 22/08/2019

Life Is Strange Limited Edition | reviews, news & interviews

Life Is Strange Limited Edition

Life Is Strange Limited Edition

Acclaimed graphic adventure episodes finally gets the boxset treatment

'Life Is Strange': foresight is a beautiful thing

Good interactive stories have to walk a game design tightrope. Too little hands-on action and you’re just watching an animated movie. Too much "gaming" and there’s not enough room for the narrative to reach out and grab you. That job is made all the harder when the story is drip-fed over the course of a year. Will the fan base stay loyal? Will newcomers be put off by joining the party late? Gamers can be a fickle bunch. Both The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones pulled it off, but the heavyweight Hollywood duo had massively popular licenses to bolster the offering.

Life is Strange relies on no audience familiarity. It’s an offbeat tale about two teenage girls, one with the ability to rewind time, rekindling a lost childhood friendship now they are both entering adulthood. There are subplots aplenty – the main one being the case of a missing student, that comes sharper into focus as the five episodes roll out and the mystery deepens. But there’s also a wealth of supporting characters in Arcadia Bay, a sleepy US coastal town at the heart of this coming-of-age story. 

Life Is Strange Limited EditionThe first digital download episode launched about a year ago and now we’re presented with a Limited Edition retail release of all five instalments, a CD soundtrack, director’s commentary and accompanying 32-page art book, such is the confidence in the work as a whole. And that confidence is well founded because in its entirety Life Is Strange is a top-tier graphic adventure, benefitting from an individual-looking hand-drawn art style, atmospheric acoustic soundtrack including tunes from the likes of Alt-J and Jose Gonzalez alongside a raft of original compositions, and an engaging narrative that has managed to shift well in excess of a million copies since launch.

The story is reactive – where dialogue branches offer moral choices that you must decide upon. Some of these choices will have a significant impact on the narrative, leading up to a crescendo decision in the ultimate episode. The impact of others are harder to determine, and without forensically replaying and choosing different character responses it’s impossible to say just how different certain outcomes will be – but suspicions suggest not that much.

The main interaction comes from the time rewind feature used by the protagonist Max Caulfield to solve rudimentary puzzles such as stopping a drink falling on a test paper in Episode 2, up to more dramatic encounters that dovetail the five episodes – and we’re staying spoiler-free on that one.

Life Is Strange Limited EditionIt’s not always a simple case of rewinding time and choosing a different option. A scene in one of the middle episodes where Max has to prove her abilities to sidekick Chloe involves a memory test of events that happen over the space of 30 seconds, and until you get every question right there’s no going forward. It’s a cleverly woven feature that further reinforces the illusion of having control over the developing story.

While initially surprisingly light on drama and heavy on set-up, the plot pays dividends through developing a strong emotional bond between the player and the unlikely duo. You’ll care about what happens to these smart but vulnerable misfit emo girls, and plot developments that gradually reveal themselves through a well-paced story linger long after the game ends.

This is an interactive graphic adventure skillfully handled and striking just the right balance between passive and active. Life may be strange, but it can also be intriguing and emotional.

 Read more gaming reviews on theartsdesk

You’ll care about what happens to these smart but vulnerable misfit emo girls

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Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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