Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Game Review: Life Is Strange Episode 1 (Chrysalis)

Title: Life Is Strange Episode 1 (Chrysalis)
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre: Episodic, Contemporary, Supernatural, Mystery, interactive drama, adventure
Platforms played: PC
Official Game Description (Source) :

Life Is Strange is a five part episodic game that sets out to revolutionise story based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future. 

You are Max, a photography senior who saves her old friend Chloe by discovering she can rewind time. The pair soon find themselves exposed to the darker side of Arcadia Bay as they uncover the disturbing truth behind the sudden disappearance of a fellow student.

Meanwhile, Max begins to have premonitions as she struggles to understand the implications of her power. She must quickly learn that changing the past can sometimes lead to a devastating future.

• A beautifully written modern adventure game
• Rewind time to change the course of events.
• Multiple endings depending on the choices you make.
• Striking, hand-painted visuals
• Distinct, licensed indie soundtrack

Author's Note: This is my first attempt of reviewing a video game so hopefully I make sense or else this will be one HELLA strange review.  

I love the episodic adventure that Telltales created like 'Walking Dead' as well as interactive adventure games of exploring every nook of the environment like where everything you pick up tells a story like 'Gone Home' . So when Life Is Strange was pitch as the marriage of this two awesome games with a time traveling twist, I knew I needed it in my life and had no regrets on getting that season pass.

Now I'm more of a casual gamer who is very picky with the games I choose to play but you guys can see a pattern of appeal that is I like games that is both interactive and has a great story and characters.

This being the first "episode", I'll go more in depth on the game play and the introduction of the major characters and will touch on them lightly in future episode reviews.

For a spoiler version where I discuss about the choices I make in the game (Click Here)

The Plot

Set in 2013 the game follows 18-year-old Max Caulfield as she returns to her home town Arcadia Bay, Oregon after her family moves to Settle five years prior to the game, leaving not only the town but also her best friend Chloe. She gets a scholarship to to Blackwell Academy, a prestigious art school so that she can follow her dreams of being a photographer and learn from the best that is her teacher Mr Mark Jefferson. 

Soon Max starts getting vision of a tornado hitting the town and unlocks the ability to rewind time after witnessing a girl getting shot in the bathroom (later reveled to be Chloe). With this new found ability, Max uses it to save Chloe from getting shot while figuring out the disappearance of schoolmate Rachael Amber and going on with her everyday high school life. 

Game Play

The game is straight forward. You walk around controlling Max and interact with your surroundings from a third person POV to get Max's inner thought on an item or talk to a character. For the PC it took a bit for me to get used to clicking around as I didn't understand the 'drag your cursor to look here' part and it took me a whole 'tutorial' chapter to get used to this. 

Depending on the item/person you can 'Look' to get a close up of the item as well as Max's inner thought, and in some cases you can take an 'Optional Photo' of them which are 'Collectible Trophies' based on different types of photography. In case you did miss an optional photo you can replay the game by re loading that chapter with a 'collectable mode' which won't affect your choices you make. 

As for dialog choices, there are both major and minor choices that will affect the game in both the short and long run. Those major choice will have a butterfly icon saying 'This action will have consequence' like how Walking dead says 'he will remember that'. An example of such is telling the Principle about the incident of witnessing Chloe in the bathroom as either choices you make will affect the story.

As for minor choice, an example is talking to some kids in school and rewinding time to say the right things to get more information from them or to get them to like you cause you now know the right question/answers.   

Now for the fun bit, the rewinding machanics. For the PC you use the right mouse to rewind time (using 'Shift' button to speed things) and use the 'Control' button to undo a choice made. I'll admit it took a bit of playing around but once I got the hang of it I had a lot of fun pressing that control button. As mention you can use it to undo choices or even decision made trough the game but there is a limit that you can rewind as if you rewind too far, the screen will get blurry and Max will look like she's having a head ache. 

Unlike a telltale game, this being a game about time it allows you to rewind and to see all the outcome as well as taking your time on what dialog to choose as unlike Telltales, this game does not have a timer and won't punish you for taking your time to make a decision or exploring the place. 

It can also unlock/ dialog choices to interact with like in your friend Dana's room, after you interact with something that makes her get mad, rewind time and you'll not only have a new dialog option but also more things to interact to get to know more about the character. 

Interaction with the characters and your surroundings in this game is important as you also get to learn more about the player. Even so I like how in the game, some characters call you out for snooping around. I especially enjoy the moments where you can 'Sit' in some areas as a montage plays while Max ponders on her thoughts. This is something new to me as in a gaming usually I want to speed pass trough the game but this game encourages you to take your time, chill and enjoy the game.

Also if you press the 'Tab' button, you can read Max's journal and the profile of each major characters which is great as it saves time for character introduction and as well as you get to know more about them. Also if Max does not work out as a photographer, she should be a YA writer as some of the stuff in her journal is hilarious!! There you can also check the Optional Photos you've taken as well as the text message sent to Max trough the game. 

Favorite Mission : Looking for the 'Tiny Tools' as you explore the Price's house and learn more about Max and Chloe's childhood.

Least Favorite Mission: Getting Warren's flash drive as though we get to explore more of the girl's dorm it too way too long to get the flashdrive thanks to the 'side mission' that made me forget why I was there in the first place.

I love the diverse cast of characters in the game! The cast of students, cause its a boarding school you get students of all sorts which i really enjoy that each of them thanks to their distinctive personality. What's really cool about the cast is that each character are either relatable or you can pin point someone you know in real life like them.

As mentioned you can click the 'Tab' Button where in Max's journal you can get her thought and a profile of each of the 'major' characters in the game. 

Obviously Max Caulfield is our main character and from the start of the game I like her. She's shy and introvert and is your typical awkward outcast but is still a strong and intelligent character with a good heart. I like reading her passion for photography especially her analog camera though I tend to ignore the gibberish when she goes on a tangent about her favorite photographers. I also love her inner thought which in both games and books I normally hate but in 'Life is Strange' I love as I feel like she is breaking down the four walls and is talking to me. 

One thing to add about Max is what she uses her new found powers for. While some people with the power to turn back time will use it to say get rich? Max uses her powers for good from saving a friend to even getting people to like her by saying the right/cool stuffs. While I do think all her actions will eventually come to bite her later, its refreshing seeings character using their powers for 'good' than for 'evil'.

Chloe Price is Max's childhood best friend who after Max left become one HELLA of a rebel. Drugs, smoking, weed, expel from school, blue hair... you name it she done it all. Chloe has a lot of baggage and issues due to the anger she has bottle up over her father's death and her mum remarried to David Madson, the school's security guard. Long story short she needs to get her shitz together, and yet there is something about Chloe that makes me care for her. No joke at the moment she's my favorite character thanks to her carefree and bad ass personality as well as deep down she too has a good heart. 

Nathan Prescott is one of our main antagonist of the game (and yes by the picture he was the one who shot Chloe). He comes out as a very instable version of a modern day 'Draco Malfoy' being a preppy rich kid who's family literally own the school and the town. While yes he a villain and might have something to do with Rachel Amber's disappearance I think there is something about him that is more than meets the eye. Still he is at the end of the day he's a real jerk. 

Now for Chloe's step Douche- I meant stepfather David Madsen, at first he came out as just a freaking mean and creepy person but after exploring and learning more about the man, we learn that he was an ex-solder who suffers PTSD and while trying to relive his glory days as well as trying to be a good stepdad to Chloe but just don't know how to show it. In a way, while some of the stuff he does is SO FREAKING WRONG (explore the garage and you'll understand why), I empathize his character and of all the adult character we've seen in the game so far he's the only one that I like and also feels real.

I'm pretty sure everyone will have encounter a teacher like Mark Jefferson in their schooling life. Heck I had a lecturer JUST LIKE HIM and even arrange the table like in his class last year. He's that 'cool, lay back and hip' teacher who is 'one of the students' that I'm pretty sure every girl ( yes including Max) swoons over. While he does know his stuff and does genuinely care for his students I have a feeling he's got something to do with Rachael Amber's disappearance (explore around people) and also he sounds very pretentious in some ways. Looking forward to seeing his significant in the future episodes. 

Ah Warren Graham. I actually adore the dorky kid and know of a couple of guys like him in real life. He's probably one of the most realistic in a cringe 'been there, done that, that was awkward' sort of way. But like Max, he's probably the type of guy I'll friend zone as from early on in the game you find out he is kinda clingy. 

Victoria Chase aka our other 'rich kids of Arcadia Bay' antagonist. I'm pretty sure I've come across one too many people like her in real life but while yes she's a catty mean beach, there is a part in the game where you can be nice to her and she'll actually be nice back which was not only one of my favorited puzzle piece of the game but also a moment where it humanised her instead of making her being a one dimensional mean girl.In face that's what most of the characters are like in the game where in the outside they look like your one dimensional stereotypes the deeper you dig the more you get to know about them changing your perspective of the character.

A part from Warrant, Max's only other friend is Kate Marsh. Coming from a traditional and religious background the game opened I sensed something bad happened to her and was bothering her to a dangerous point. While looking around, I found some stuff in this episode foreshadowing the events of episode 2 for Kate. I really do like her character especially after I read Max's thoughts about her in her diary.

Rachael Amber aka the missing girl. While exploring and talking around, you get that she's a popular girl who is friends with ALMOST everyone. From the popular to the loners to even the teachers. We also learn that after Max left she's Chloe's other BFF and sort of a replacement to Max. While the mystery behind her disappearance is still up in the air you do get some decent information about her just by looking around.


The number one problem I had with the game (which I'm sure most  people) was the lip-synch. It was weird like watching a bunch of puppets and took me a while to get used to. Unfortunately its something that we all have to deal with as the developers have address that they are not gonna fix it.

I also had a hard time exploring Max's room (which I eventually found out that I had to change my screen settings to low after having a similar problem future episodes) during one of the mission.

One glitch I got was when Max rewind time after finding some files they froze midair and at first I thought I didn't rewind back enough. Ah well she unlock the power to freeze stuff in midair.


I can't not talk about Life is Strange without talking about how amazing this game looks! It reminds me of an indie movie meets a mess up teen drama like 'Skins'.

This game looks nostalgic and bright for an 'dark teenage angst' game. The atmosphere so peaceful and it took me a while to realise that this game gave me the same feelings as 'Harvest Moon A Wonderful Life' with its calm tranquil atmosphere.

I also enjoy and related to the settings of the game. The campus of Blackwell academy reminds me of my uni campus and actually makes me enjoy my environment more. I will say that the dorm rooms are a lot more spacious than what I picture dorm rooms to be (heck its about the size of two dorm rooms at my uni).

Also the soundtrack is a great addition! The guys at Dontnod have some great taste on the list of songs they included in the game which are mostly indie songs I'll over look. Heck if they ever released a soundtrack compilation I'll get it in a heartbeat. 

My favorite was the song Obstacle by Syd Matters but all the songs in the game are amazing and I have been playing them on repeat since getting the game.


If I were to compare the writing of Life is Strange to any YA author I've read it will be mix between Rainbow Rowell's 'Fangirl' and Claudia Grey's 'A Thousand Pieces of You'' with a sprinkle of Morgan Matson's Since You've Been Gone and John Green's Paper Towns.

While the story has a mystery and paranormal/sci-fi twist, its mainly a coming of age story about coming in terms with yourself, friendship and being in that 'awkward' teenage years while tackling problems like bulling, teenage pregnancy, depression and many more.

I love a good pop culture reference and this game does it well. From tv show reference on the car license plate to Max trying to imitate Nicolas Cage when looking for Warren's 'precious' flash drive, its fun looking for the reference drop (even though that final fantasy reference had me eye rolling... good job Square-Enix).
To get lost in the narrative of the game is like how I get loss in a good book. Its refreshing to see gaming taking such narrative where its not only set in high school but with a main character like Max.
I admit the dialog is cringe and at times awkward, I still think it suits the game as that IS how teenagers do talk as lets face it, teens do tend to say some stuff that we think was cool then but look back five years will make us cringe!

Oddly enough my favorite and least favorite lines came from Victoria.

Favourite Line: Go Fu*k your selfie
Least Favorite Line: Now you're totally stuck in the retro zone. Sadface - Me: CRINGE!!!

Also I'm blaming Chloe for adding the word 'Hella' into my vocab! lolz

Its hard to talk about this game without going into details or spoiling the game but this being the first episode I'm already hooked on the game. Its a solid introduction episode that sets up the premis for the rest of the series.

Since I got the season pass on stream already played the second and third episode while patiently (not really) waiting for episode four, I will make a separate post where I'll discuss all the choices I made in the game as I want to discuss why I choose said choice to avoid major spoilers in this review.

Episode 1 Discussion is up (Click Here)

I like Life is Strange and as a YA LIT lover i highly recommend this game if you like a game with a great universal narrative. In fact this is a game I recommend to ANYONE who want to give games a go and highly recommend playing it with your friends/ family to not only debate on which choice to make in game but discuss and debate over the theories of the game like finding out who is A in an episode of Pretty Little Liars

Happy Playing!

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