Life is Strange: Episode 1 - Chrysalis (Xbox One) - ReviewDan Carreras , posted on 02 February 2015 / 3,716 Views
After checking out Life is Strange behind closed doors back at Eurogamer last year, I must admit that I had long been looking forward to getting my hands on the finished product and exploring its vivid and wonderful world in more detail. The premise for Life is Strange is simple: you play as Max, a girl who’s moved back to her hometown after a five year absence. Through Max you must live out a typical teenager's college life, with all the accompanying bitchiness and emotional hardship that is part and parcel of growing up and trying to find a place within today's society.
The game kicks off with a scene that is very reminiscent of Alan Wake, with a stormy forest surrounding Max and a lighthouse in the distance. It’s your job to guide Max to the lighthouse and watch on as a huge tornado starts to engulf the town. At this point you wake up in the middle of a classroom, with everyone else seemingly unaware that you were daydreaming. Max continues about her awkward day with a lovely opening where you wander the school corridors whilst listening to a country track; it's a sequence which sets the mood for Life is Strange wonderfully.
Upon reaching the girl's restroom, Max becomes privy to a heated argument between a man and a woman, which results in the woman getting shot. In a panic Max reaches out to help, which causes time to rewind back to her being in the classroom. Thus you're introduced to Max’s time-travelling ability - so, for example, any questions you answer incorrectly can now be undone with the simple press of the left trigger and answered differently the next time around.
Remember being asked a question in Mass Effect or The Walking Dead and instantly regretting the decision you made only to reload your last save and select a different option? Life is Strange takes this concept and adopts it so thoroughly that it becomes the lifeblood of the game, pushing you to see each and every outcome to major events through fear you may miss something. It’s a clever feature, one which grants developer Dontnod more creative freedom whilst also allowing players to experience all of the content on offer.
The rewind feature isn't limited merely to social scenarios but is also used to good effect around the environment itself to craft clever puzzles. For example, there's one puzzle where a tool box falls under shelf, which prevents you from reaching it, but by rewinding time and placing a matt there first you can cause the toolbox to drop again, only this time you'll be able to retrieve it.
Max inhabits a very detailed and impressive game world. The sheer amount of detail on every wall, corridor, and outdoor environment makes it a joy to explore the game. The hand-painted textures also bring the world to life, giving a subtle but pretty aesthetic to the game. As an added bonus every nook and cranny gives the player more information about the world and its inhabitants, so exploration is well-rewarded and enjoyable. Towards the start of the game, for instance, you're able to read Max’s journal on her desk if you so wish, and this gives you great insight into her friends and family. It also details the journey Max has been on, moving away from and then back to her hometown.
Speaking of people, Max can’t just come back to her hometown and not expect to meet old friends. A big part of this first episode concerns Max's reunion with her old best friend, Chloe. Since Max’s departure five years ago Chloe has changed dramatically, with the death of her father in particular hitting her hard. Chloe is now into punk culture, takes drugs, and is involved in some serious misdeeds. It’s nice to see a character fleshed out like Chloe; her aggressive nature and jaded outlook on life is a good representation of a large teenage sub-culture. It’s also with Chloe that serious topics start to unfold, from the serious allegations that a college kid on your campus roofied her, to the fact that her new step-dad is abusive and a “douche-bag”.
Being the first episode in a series of five, Chrysalis takes its time to walk you through what this series as a whole will offer, but the ending is suitably shocking and intriguing. The ending also marks a departure from the more trivial reality of day-to-day life that you experience for most of the first episode, and in a way it would be a shame if future episodes depart too heavily from exploring the life of an average 18 year old college girl that it does so well here. I don’t want to spoil the story in any way, but the ending of this episode definitely changes the tone of the series.
I look forward to playing more episodes of Life is Strange, as the world that Dontnod has created is refreshingly different from that found in most games. With its unique story, impressive attention to detail, and cleverly implemented time-rewinding mechanic, Life is Strange is shaping up to be a great series. Life is Strange truly brings something different to the table, and in an industry looking to mature as a medium, that is undoubtedly a good thing.
This review is based on a digital copy of Life is Strange: Episode 1 - Chrysalis for the , provided by the publisher.
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