Life is Strange Episode 1 Review – Not Worth Living
Those that claim video games are a masterful medium for storytelling are often proven wrong by titles brandishing chainsaw guns and scantily-clad little girls. DONTNOD and Square-Enix had great plans to revolutionize the medium with Life is Strange, an episodic coming-of-age tale with a supernatural twist. Unfortunately, the game is an embarrassment to both storytelling in games and video games as a whole.
Life is Strange: Episode 1 Review
An embarrassment? Surely Life is Strange cannot be that bad, can it? Unfortunately, this most certainly is the case here.
For a game that lives and dies by its story, the one found in Life is Strange is a cliche-ridden, angsty mess. Players take the role of Max Caulfield, a teenage girl hoping to make her mark in the world of photography at the prestigious Blackwell Academy (which looks strangely like a high school, lockers and all). Of course, her life is rife with such struggles as homework, bitchy students, and homesickness. This normally would not be a problem — shows like Freaks and Geeks have handled similar storytelling elements quite well, but each and every character is one-dimensional, each meeting a different stereotype. You’ve got the punk youth who hides her feelings with hair dye and pot, the preppy student who doesn’t take any guff, and even the security guard who takes his job way too seriously.
This is made infinitely worse with the dialog these characters are given. Lingo is out of place and somewhat broken, as if an out-of-touch designer took to 9Gag and Tumblr to see what those kids are saying these days. The moment you hear the wallflower Max say “are you cereal” or “kek” is the moment you know something’s off. Life is Strange tries to hide this by name dropping cult movies and photographers, but simply mentioning Akira or Cannibal Holocaust out of context does not make for strong writing.
But surely the script of Life is Strange stands out, right? Wrong again. The plot of Life is Strange revolves around a random happenstance with our main character (not heroine) Max. After taking a shot of a blue butterfly in the women’s bathroom, she found that she could rewind time on a whim. Some might use this power to make a difference (just look at Edge of Tomorrow or Groundhog Day), but not Max. She uses her powers to get screwdrivers off the top of washing machines and master pop quiz questions. Though this is the first episode, the butterfly effect concept is completely and utterly squandered. Rather, the two hour plot revolves around Max grabbing a flash drive from her dorm, meeting up with an old friend, and taking a leisurely walk.
However, Life is Strange is still a video game at its core. There is little to no gameplay here to speak of however. Trailers and preview text proudly proclaims that Life is Strange allows you to create your own story and change the way the story goes. Despite this, there is a serious amount of handholding to be seen. Not only does Max’s inner monologue tell you everything you need to do, the camera will also conveniently zoom in on major set pieces. Failing that, large blocks of text fill the screen to make sure you won’t miss the next set piece.
Dialog choices aren’t much better. Life is Strange often gives players two choices, both of which do the same thing. The game almost always forces players to rewind back to the beginning of any conversation, just to find a magical “third” option has finally appeared. It’s forced, and makes it feel like you’re being pandered to.
Life is Strange is full of so much squandered potential. What could have been a great coming-of-age tale is hindered by bad writing, characters, set pieces, and gameplay. Those willing to give it a shot are better off playing better-executed cinematic titles like The Walking Dead or Heavy Rain.