Life Is Strange Episode 1 Review (PS4)

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Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix

Main Review

Review Context: I have had the pleasure of playing  interactive adventure games such as The Wolf Among Us, Heavy Rain, Beyond:Two Souls, and The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2.
Date of Playthrough: 1/31/2015

Looking to make their presence felt in the adventure game market, Square Enix has teamed up with DONTNOD Entertainment, the team who brought us Remember Me.  Life is Strange‘s story revolves around female protagonist, Max Caulfield, admirer of analog cameras and indie rock music, who moves back from Seattle to her childhood hometown after five years to pursue her dream of being a photographer at Blackwell Academy, a private art school for twelth grade seniors. After successfully altering the outcome of a life threatening situation, she discovers that she now has the ability to reverse time. With this newfound power, she can go back in time and change future events to her liking. Our protagonist’s ordinary life quickly gets turned upside down, when she not only has to survive daily school life, but she also has to adapt to her newfound powers, rekindle her relationship with her best friend, Chloe, who she did not keep in touch with after she moved to Seattle, and decipher the meaning, or perhaps message behind the recurring nightmare she keeps having.

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While solid overall, The presentation in Life Is Strange definitely has certain areas it could improve upon. for one, the lip syncing during the dialogue was noticeably off, and while not necessarily game breaking, it surely stands out in this type of game. I also found some of the voice acting to be on the lackluster side; certain characters seemed unenthusiastic and unconvincing, which led to some of the dialogue being poorly executed. I also came across annoying high school stereotypes and poorly designed character models who seemed totally out of place. With that said, the script is well written, the plot is paced wonderfully, and while the voice acting was not up  to par with other popular entries in the genre, there were still many solid performances to be found, which help to keep your interest throughout the episode’s duration.

As far as the graphics are concerned, I found them to be visually endearing; the color palette used is absolutely beautiful, and at times I felt as if I was playing in a living, breathing canvas painting. For the most part, I thought the character models and the environments in the game were very well designed and this is definitely an art style I would like to see more of in other games. The night time/rainy weather sections in the game especially stood out to me; the sight of trees swaying left and right, and drops of rain hitting the ground vigorously was breathtaking. These moments in the game were well executed and emphasized attention to detail. All in all, the graphics wowed me and only immersed me even more, which is always a plus.

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The gameplay department is where Life Is Strange truly gets it’s legs. Gameplay revolves around engaging in dialogue, exploring your environment, examining items, making important decisions, and more importantly, time reversal. The decisions you make in the game might not have the biggest impact initially, but you do get the sense that they matter and could unravel further in future episodes. Reversing time is truly an amazing feat as it allows you to rewind time in order to change dialogue choices, alter an unwanted future event, and even temporarily move obstacles out of your path. This power is not just cleverly implemented, it’s also very fun and satisfying each and every time you use it. Being able to change crucial decisions on the fly allows for more experimentation and totally eliminates the nuisance of starting a new game in order to see the different outcomes. While I really did enjoy using this ability, I still wish it was not solely limited to rewinding time. How  about stopping time? Or better yet, time travel. Still, this is only the first episode, so the possibility of her powers advancing could take place(fingers crossed). So when it’s all said and done, I found the gameplay to be truly engrossing and I found that reversing time as opposed to quick time events is more intriguing, and quite frankly more effective. The soundtrack was not exactly memorable, but it certainly had it’s moments. The indie rock songs heard throughout the episode were very pleasing to the ear and it was nice to hear the sound amp up during the more tense moments in the game. If you want the best experience, you should use a high-quality gaming headset.

Despite the rough edges in Life Is Strange, the first episode was a strong entry for this new franchise. I want to see the flaws addressed and fixed in the future episodes, but even if they don’t, I still think the episodes will be great as long the story stays interesting and the gameplay remains fun and clever. This series has a lot of potential for greatness. It remains to be seen if the good folks at DONTNOD Entertainment can live up to it. If you are looking for an adventure with a rich story, fun, clever gameplay, or if you just find the concept of time reversal alluring, you could do a whole lot worse than Life Is Strange.

Similar Games Liked:
The Wolf Among Us Season One (PS3)
The Walking Dead Season 1 (PS3)

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