Be­fore the Storm

Don­ning a hoodie, a face-full of spots and mooching around the lo­cal shop­ping precinct, Philippa Warr fits in well with the Lin­uxFor­mat team.

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Don­ning a hoody, a face full of spots and mooching around the train tracks, Philippa

Warr fits in well with the Lin­uxFor­mat team as she tack­les this teen-angst sim­u­la­tor.

This teen drama has that chal­lenge pe­cu­liar to pre­quels of hav­ing to pro­vide the build-up to a story which man­aged fine with­out it. Be­fore­the Storm takes char­ac­ters from Lifeis

Strange and digs into their lives a few years prior. The main fo­cus this time is Chloe Price – a gawky ball of un­re­solved grief, an ex­uder of teen rage and a se­rial player of hooky. We join her af­ter the death of her fa­ther, Wil­liam, just as class princess, Rachel Am­ber, crashes into her life.

Be­fore­theS­torm of­fers a more stream­lined ex­pe­ri­ence than its pre­de­ces­sor. It pri­ori­tises con­ver­sa­tion over puz­zle­solv­ing and fleshes out the relationship which is at the root of most of the ac­tion in LifeisS­trange.

Teen tropes

One of the things we loved about the orig­i­nal game was how it seemed to em­brace the tropes of teen fic­tion. This means it can be overly dra­matic, self-serv­ing or steeped in wish ful­fil­ment. You’ll also find spa­ces where peo­ple are fig­ur­ing them­selves out, writ­ing their iden­ti­ties into be­ing, hav­ing con­fronta­tions they can’t have in real life, con­jur­ing up es­capes from the frus­tra­tion of ado­les­cence, be­ing their own he­roes.

There are also some ace scenes. Chloe can have a foray into D&D that made us laugh out loud, there’s a peo­ple-watch­ing im­prov seg­ment and there are so many lit­tle mo­ments of sin­cer­ity where the ef­forts of the char­ac­ters to con­nect with each other feels just right. There’s also plenty of wish ful­fil­ment. While Lifeis Strange wound its sto­ry­telling around a cen­tral mys­tery,

Be­fore­theS­torm hones in on Chloe and Rachel’s story. The first game sup­ported sat­is­fy­ing am­bi­gu­i­ties with re­gard to re­la­tion­ships. This time we went head­long into ro­mance. It was great. Dra­matic and sin­cere and ab­so­lutely re­plete with iconic mo­ments.

The pre­vi­ous time rewind me­chanic has been re­placed with a back­talk chal­lenge. We found this to be mostly miss be­cause you’re es­sen­tially ar­gu­ing your way through a scene in an ar­ti­fi­cial way. Be­fore theS­torm some­times wan­ders into sim­plis­tic melo­drama with pan­tomime vil­lains (as did its pre­de­ces­sor). Our feel­ings of an­noy­ance are heightened partly be­cause the game has played out against the back­drop of #MeToo.

On the overtly neg­a­tive side, char­ac­ter move­ment – es­pe­cially the run­ning and walk­ing an­i­ma­tions – can be dis­tract­ingly odd. In fact, char­ac­ters gen­er­ally have a very strange lack of phys­i­cal­ity in the world.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing this is a stilted el­e­ment of the di­a­logue. There are some un­nat­u­rally long pauses be­tween lines and a propen­sity to tell, not show. We found our minds wan­der­ing dur­ing some scenes as con­ver­sa­tions took on a stop-start qual­ity.

Nods to and teasers for the orig­i­nal game are vari­able. Some add con­text to story and char­ac­ters, oth­ers seem more about en­tic­ing play­ers into pick­ing up the other game. There are also points where co­her­ence or logic are pushed to one side in ser­vice of emo­tions or aes­thetic.

Be­fore­theS­torm ben­e­fits from be­ing more fo­cused and more of a char­ac­ter piece than LifeIsS­trange. It gets rid of most of the clunky puz­zling, pro­vides emo­tional pay­offs for Chloe fans, and puts a teenage girl front and cen­tre in a valu­able way. LXF

Not ev­ery­one wants to re­live those teenangst mo­ments.

“What? My hoodie was in the wash, okay? Get over it.”

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