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