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

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