Life is Strange

Re-e-wind. When the crowd say bo, se­lect her

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It aims to deal with the kind of sto­ry­lines you’d see at Sundance//

Dontnod, which last brought us the fresh but flawed Re­mem­ber Me, de­scribes Life is Strange as a ‘triple-A in­die game’, but don’t cringe just yet. On one hand, this episodic ad­ven­ture has a size­able bud­get and a de­vel­op­ment team of over 40; on the other, it aims to deal with the type of ma­ture, character- driven sto­ry­lines you might find at the Sundance Film Fes­ti­val.

You play Max­ine Cau­field, a shy pho­tog­ra­pher who prefers to be be­hind the cam­era than in front of it. That’s why her friend­ship with the re­bel­lious, blue-haired Chloe feels – like most thrown-to­gether teenage friend­ships – a bit tem­pes­tu­ous. Our demo be­gins in Chloe’s chaotic bed­room. Black graf­fiti scrawled on band poster-cov­ered walls warn us that ‘Every­body lies, no ex­cep­tions’. Nat­u­ral light is sub­sti­tuted with fairy lights. It’s a den of soli­tude. Pretty stan­dard teenage bed­room, then. As Max you’re free to ex­plore, lazily pulling draw­ers to find manic sketches on lined pa­per and pho­tos of Chloe flip­ping the bird. Upon open­ing the wardrobe, a shoe­box tum­bles out. “Good go­ing,” mut­ters Chloe. “You spilled my stuff.” No prob­lem – Max’ll just al­ter the fab­ric of space and time.

Rewind­ing time forms the ba­sis for most puz­zles in Life is Strange. Re­play­ing the sce­nario, Max care­fully takes the shoe­box down and opens it neatly. Con­fronta­tion avoided. Next she turns on the ra­dio and gen­tle in­die-folk streams into the room, gelling nicely with the au­tum­nal North­west set­ting. Mov­ing down­stairs, the mu­sic con­tin­ues as a sound­track.

She’s look­ing for tools to fix her cam­era after the school bully, Nathan, smashed it. Out in the gar­den mi­grat­ing birds flock over­heard, and near an old shed Max spots a weath­ered pic­ture she and Chloe painted the last time she was over, years ago. After a timerewind­ing puz­zle in­volv­ing a wash­ing ma­chine and a sheet of card­board, she finds a pre­ci­sion screw­driver in a musty old room. Back in Chloe’s bed­room, some more up-tempo mu­sic is called for so she can ‘med­i­cate’. Dur­ing a brief mosh, a voice rum­bles from down­stairs. “Turn that off! I’m com­ing up there!” It’s the ‘stepführer’, as Chloe calls him. Max searches fran­ti­cally for a hid­ing space but it’s too late, the en­raged man burst­ing in and con­fronting her. “Is this yours?” he de­mands, hold­ing up the blunt.

Denying it causes him to slap Chloe who, be­trayed, throws you from her house and sports a bright-red mark on her face for a short while af­ter­wards. Rewind­ing time and tak­ing the blame, how­ever, leads to Chloe pro­claim­ing you a badass, your re­la­tion­ship strength­en­ing as a re­sult. While the true ex­tent of the but­ter­fly ef­fect re­mains to be seen, Life is Strange looks like a com­pelling choose-yourown-ad­ven­ture where char­ac­ters are be­liev­able and choices mat­ter. Ben Grif­fin

If you get to this point, you prob­a­bly messed up.

The Un­real 3 en­gine of­fers uniquely stylised vi­su­als, broad but de­tailed. Each tex­ture is painted by hand.

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