Life is Strange – Strangely Beautiful in this Case

Life is Strange is a strange game indeed. It is slow, quiet and pensive. There is hardly any action. And because of all this, it is wonderful. Contrary to the Telltale formula, Life is Strange doesn’t need to shoehorn simplistic QTE mechanics to give you the impression stuff is going on. What it takes from The Walking Dead & Co. is that making (eventually) irreversible decisions with potentially grave consequences is a key aspect, and of course the episodic nature of the game.

If you start playing as Max, the heroine returned to her home town, you find yourself in a dream before you wake up in class. The first few minutes, it seems to be the tale of an awkward teenager trying to fit in – before Max realises she can reverse time. But because of this ability, Life is Strange never gets too hectic, you can repeat actions and dialogues if you don’t like the outcome – well, you can’t always so better make the decision you want to follow through with … but in general, Life is Strange gives you the freedom to talk, explore and find out what’s going on at your own pace. The soundtrack is stellar here – some songs are best enjoyed in full while Max is telling us her thoughts – or sometimes, it just feels good to sit there and be relaxed while Max is relaxed.

So what exactly is going on? Good question. Think of Life is Strange as a contemporary Twin Peaks – a rather sleepy town threatened by ominous signs, weird characters with their hidden agendas, and lots of buried secrets. Plus, there is symbolism all around. Storms, butterflies, light and dark, strange signs everywhere – there is much happening, and some of it might be important. And of course, photography seems to be an integral part of Max – and the game?

Gameplay-wise, well, expect a bit of exploring, a bit of puzzling, and a bit of dialogue options – Life is Strange is not about inventing anything in terms of gameplay mechanics. But it doesn’t need to have much gameplay if the simplistic approach manages to create an immersive atmosphere where even the most colourful surroundings feel a bit, well, strange …

The characters in Life is Strange all seem to be stereotypes at first sight – rich jocks, poor nerds, bitchy cheerleaders, the prude religious girl, the hipster teacher, a surveillance control freak, the rebelling punk girl smoking weed – name it. But below the surface, there might be more to some, if not all characters. Plus, they seem a bit surreal.

Speaking of surreal – reversing time, the comic-like graphics and the asynchronous lip movements could all be a sign something in Life is Strange is stranger than just strange … Currently, there are quite a few fan theories in the net already, and we can expect more to follow. Maybe everything that happens in the game is just a dream, or it is the past, or maybe even the future? Who knows?

You might have realised Rabidgames is not giving you many details about Life is Strange – yes, and for a reason. Go buy the game. Enjoy it. Make your decisions. Find out what’s going on. But most importantly, discover a welcome change from the hectic shooting and fighting and hacking and driving fast. Life is Strange never ends up as an interactive reaction test, it is always about you taking your time to go on … and if you are too slow and things happen, you can just rewind time in order to proceed. No harm done.

Rabidgames is excited: One episode finished, four to go. You don’t have to be a fan of episodic interactive movies to enjoy Life is Strange, you just have to be willing to take a game slow. Give Life is Strange some time, it will reward you with a feeling of calm enjoyment. This alone is worth playing it. And then, you might want to see what happens if you make different choices …

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