Life Is Strange
Love, loss and friendship drive Dontnod’s tale of teenage affection
360, PC, PS3
Videogames are good with guns and engines, less so with soap opera. The Sims takes a shot, but is more about offering players a storytelling toolkit than allowing them to interact with a well-told story from a writer’s pen. Life Is Strange, however, is built around the tale of a teenage girl’s return to her hometown after years away. Her friends are older and their relationships have changed. But even in the hands of the talented team at Dontnod, the story needs a sci-fi concession to gamify the melodrama.
“We really think that time manipulation is an interesting feature for this genre,” says co-game director Michel Koch. “For a game with choice and consequence, you can retry and test some different choices in the short term, but choosing what you think is right now doesn’t mean that what you experience in the mid- and longterm will be good. Max’s power is limited, and by then it will be too late to rewind [time].”
Max is Maxine Caulfield, a girl gifted with the inexplicable ability to rewind time for short periods. This becomes both a way to experience the many possibilities of each scene and a puzzle-solving tool during the game’s mild mental exercises. When Max nudges a tall cabinet to retrieve an item on top, she inadvertently knocks it behind a heavy workbench; a quick rewind, and she can slide a piece of card beneath the cabinet to give the object a safe landing. “We want players to face the fact that even with this huge, powerful ability, every choice has its consequences and nothing is completely white or black,” Koch says. “You will still have to deal with accepting fate and going on with some choices in your life.”
Is there a wildly conspicuous Chekhov’s Gun in the first episode of Life Is Strange? It’s hard to imagine that the pistol Chloe keeps under her bed – a bed in a room that screams ‘authority issues’ – won’t end up being fired
The game’s world is painted in autumnal oranges and browns, and its objects rendered in painterly style.
Here, Max discovers Chloe’s stepfather’s spy camera setup. Authoritarian by nature, he certainly is keeping a watchful eye on his tearaway stepdaughter