When I finished The Chaos Theory, I was flooded in tears and my conscience hurt. I took wrong decisions which lead to the worst consequences. And those consequences tore my heart apart and left a burden on me that wouldn’t let me sleep. So I played the last part of that chapter again to set things right and save that person I won’t name to avoid spoilers.
Yeah, that was a person for me, not just a character. When you stumble on a character so well-written which becomes alive, you get to care about him/her, you get involved in his/her story and wish s/he came to life. And that’s just one of the main reasons I love Life Is Strange.
Narrative adventures have become very popular lately thanks to Telltale Games and, if you enjoy that genre, you should play Life is Strange. For those who don’t know what’s this game about by now, I’ll explain the main plot without any painful spoilers: you play as Maxine Caulfield, a photography student who is blessed with the ability to rewind time and foresees the destruction of the town where she lives (Arcadia Bay) by a tornado. Each chapter represents a day of the week, from Monday to Friday, and you’ll have to deal with the misteries of your power, Blackwell and Arcadia Bay.
You’ll have to make some decisions, and will have the possibility to rewind them before you set a final choice. And every decision has good and bad consequences, as in real life, so you’ll be wondering along the game if you chose the right path, yet knowing that are no “right paths”, but different outcomings.
The rhythm of the story creates that intrigue that will leave you hooked to your gamepad at the same time misteries get unravelled just to create new ones. And here I am, writing this review while biting my nails until I get Chapter 5 available to play.
But do you know why I fell in love with Life is Strange? Because it’s a game which is more than sheer entertainment.
Gaming has been a part of me since I was a little girl. I’ve enjoyed games for all my life and they’ve been a precious source of entertainment like books and films. I consider them a form of art, and there are many games which I consider as important to humanity as David by Michelangelo and the tales by Poe. Of course I enjoy games whose only purpose is fun, but when I come across a piece of art I can cherish on my gamepad, my gamer happiness is double.
And Life is Strange is a work of art.
The player does not just play, but becomes part of the story of Arcadia Bay to the extent s/he wishes to meet those characters outside the videogame. As I’m writing this, I wish Max was real, so I could email her and propose her a shooting. Max was the first step to fall in love with Life is Strange. If you don’t know her yet, she is a college student many of us would relate to, humble, full of insecurities, yet idealistic and with a strong sense of justice. Pretty, but not stunning, and her appeal does not need any oversexualization. Plus, players can read her personal journal which makes us know her better (special mention to her drawings and collages) and share with her reflexive moments to chill and wander through her thoughts. Also, she has a superpower and, hence, she is a super-heroine (with no need of tight latex or voluptous curves). As a geek leading a geeky life, I relate with her, and I’m sure many gamer girls do as well, and that’s why we love playing as Max. Plus, playing as someone we relate to who has an awesome superpower as time-reversing feels empowering.
And despite her superpower, Max is still human, and she (us) can make mistakes. As I’ve said before, we make decisons along the game which brings good, bad and somewhere-in-the-middle consequences. As in real life. Hardly ever the outcome of a decision we feel like “the right thing to do” is perfect, and sometimes decisions of which we don’t feel very sure have an unexpected and positive result. Precisely, these similarities to reality create a strong empathic bond between the player, Max and her story.
Realism is also found on character writing, which is one of the top traits of Life is Strange.
There are no black and white characters, but people with their faults and virtues. The atmosphere of an art school is well-reflected on Blackwell, with every urban tribe you usually find there (and body diversity!) and each character sets in the mind of the player as a person you’d know in your every day as a student. Even the most hateful characters like Victoria get to be charming and hold more story beneath the surface. Special mention to Kate Marsh, a girl you gotta love and whose religious trait is elegantly conveyed, without mocking any community. Her story deals with bullying, and Life is Strange is one of the games which treats this issue so perfectly.
Another special mention is Rachel Amber, who you mostly know through pictures and the eyes of her former companions, and yet you feel you know her as another Blackwell student. And what to say about Chloe, the crush of almost every Life is Strange player? She is the rebel, charismatic girl every Max would love to be. The relationship between the two of them is portrayed with very good taste and emotiveness, with no morbid scenes of girls masturbating for a male, heterosexual audience.
Lastly (but not least!), Life is Strange will conquer your heart if you’re a gamer who values games as a form of art, but mostly it will get your heart if you’re an art lover. Photography is one of the main pillars of the game, and as a model, this is detail I cannot ignore. Along the game, the player has some photography goals to accomplish: moments s/he will have to spot and have Max to photograph game. Every picture is a trophy named after a photographic tecnique and gives the gameplay a special value.
Because all these reasons I can’t wait for Chapter 5: Polarized. Chapter 4 ends with a heavy cliffhanger and the tension it’s just too much. I know, I’m writing the review of a game which is not finished yet, but I’m writing it because it’s worthwhile to start playing and enjoy it. Life is Strange is part of a revolution in a source of entertainment which has been starving for creativity, new stories free of clichés and powerful characters and, for this, it deserves our attention, acknowledgement and a special place in our PC or console.
Moreover, I want you to play it to bite your nails along with me until Chapter 5 is available to drain our tears and hearts.