What would you do if you could change the past? Would you try to correct a mistake you made? Stop something from occurring? Do something differently? We've probably done a lot of things in our lives that we regret. Things that makes us cringe at night when we're alone with our thoughts or when we're aimlessly walking along the sidewalk. Everyone yearns for that rewind button and would probably jump at the opportunity if given. But as any science fiction literature would tell you, time travel is never that simple especially if you add a spoon of high school drama into it.
Dontnod's episodic adventure game Life is Strange is the story of Max Caulfield, a young, budding photographer in high school who has a preference for analog cameras and selfies, and Chloe Price, Max's childhood friend and local punk drop out. After witnessing a shocking scene involving her best friend and the local entitled rich kid, Max suddenly realized that she has developed the ability to rewind time. Though completely devoid of any sort of explanation, Max's powers is the central point of the plot and the gameplay. Life is Strange takes from Tell-Tale's Adventure games Book of game design but gives you more liberty with your choices through Max's rewind powers.
Except when it doesn't. Yes, the game gives you the choice to
think about the dialog you say or the things you do and if you weren't
satisfied with your choices, you can always rewind but Life is Strange always
has a point where it shows you that all the choices you made has a positive and
negative effect no matter how good you think you've been and it expect you to
carry all this is burden to the end. I guess that's what makes the game so
relatable, the true central focus of the game is not Max's time traveling
ability, but ÃÂ the choices that everyone
makes and how we need to continue on with our story no matter the consequence.
Of course, a melancholic story about choices won't work if the visuals are as saturated and vibrant like majority of FPS games today. The game grips you with pastel colored scenarios and soft lightings setting the mood for a flood of nostalgia that left us in a corner, thinking about our lost innocence. The cherry on top of this melancholic one way train to feels town is the soundtrack which drives the feels home. It made us think that the whole game was made to fit the soundtrack due to how fitting it all felt.
Though, there are some points of the game that pulls you back
from the nostalgia vortex and reminds you that you're just playing a game.
Lip-syncing is one, no one can dispute what a great job Hannah Telle, Ashly
Burch and the rest of the voice actors have done but the horrible lip-syncing
kept it from being more engaging and makes Max and Chloe feel more like 3d
models with voiceovers than actual characters. Another is how un-reactive the
environment can be, like Max is literally invisible to everyone. Yes, Max can
interact with the things and people through the usual adventure game formula of
pressing a button in front of something but those activities felt isolated.
Acadia Bay feels alive and full of ambiance the moment it established but if it
treats you like a ghost, then it'll only feel like a town trapped in some kind
of time loop.
Overall, Life is Strange may be far from being the perfect adventure game but it has cemented a place in our hearts through its memorable characters and nostalgic ambiance. Though it may have it's faults, no one can deny how beautifully painful it is to play this game. It doesn't sugar coat the coming of age story, it embraces its realities and tells you that it's alright. That life is full of choices and dwelling over the "bad" ones you made is just a waste of time. That life is indeed strange and that's how it's suppose to be.