Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Game Review: Life is Strange Episode 5 (Polarized) - Spoilers!



Title: Life Is Strange Episode 5 (Polarized)
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.

Features
• 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

WARNING: I'm gonna spoil the hella crap out of the final episode. I will make a discussion post where I show my walkthrough of the game and discuss my choices.





Okay I need to check but is everyone OKAY????? Cause I'm both Okay and NOT Okay...

I'm sending everyone reading this and recovering from the ending of Life is strange a BIG virtual hug as we are all gonna need it.


Its amazing seeing how Life is strange went from a chill and fun game about mundane teenage life and photography to something that is emotional, dark and twisted. I had fun playing through the games, making up theories and discussing with friends what's gonna happen and seeing the game finally coming to an end is surreal yet bittersweet. I literally am typing this out after I've completed the game and I don't think I can go back and replay this episode or even see the other ending as I've choose my path on how I think Max and Chloe's story should end and as sad and bittersweet as it was... I was satisfied. 

The Plot



Max has been kidnapped into the Dark Room by her teacher Mr Jefferson. Meanwhile a storm is hitting Arcadia Bay and her best friend Chloe is dead. Meanwhile Max's also facing the consequence of her rewind power as she manipulate time, fate and destiny. Can she escape the bunker to prevent the storm and Chloe's death?

Game Play

Game play once again uses familiar/ similar mechanics that we have encountered from episode one to four but on a hella harder level. I don't mind it as it was fun and challenging to see a new spin to some of the mechanics. I'll admit I miss the times where we snoop around the principal office in episode 3 and still think NOTHING can beat that detective puzzle board in episode 4.

Photo Hop


Ah be kind an hop around. We already used this mechanic in episode 3 and 4 and with this episode being called Polarized, makes sense that hopping around photos to fix time will be the main focus and probably the only way for Max to temporary excape. Kinda gotten used to the concept after those button mashing tutorials. Also its really cool (and dangerous) hopping through all those photos through the first third of the game. 


Also trying to photo hop in the gallery was the challenging and hilarious cause if Max does not hop in quick she'll be interrupted by those visiting the gallery. And if you were wondering, I was a slow poke and was interrupted three times. 

Warn david

This part was hard as I keep getting David hurt or killed! The point of this chain of reaction is to stall Jefferson enough to warn David with causing as little harm to him so that he could rescue Max.

I at first choose to ask Jefferson to take a pic of Max bit event though I warned David he still got hurt with being hit in the tripod, max being hit with the tripod, david being shot, max being shot, unicorns being shot GAHHHHHH!!! 


Instead I rewind way back to the start and ask for water where Jefferson push a cart near Max which when David came in we kick the cart into Jefferson making him loose that tripod he was holding and pull one of the chords to distract him so that David can give him one more punch in the face. This was like that dialog tree back in episode 4 with frank where we try to get no one hurt but instead of words its a chain of actions actions.

Everyday Storm Hero


What is a game about rewind powers without Max being kind and rewind. Through the storm you'll have to save people from stopping them from taking a pic of the tornado (stupid Evan!!!) to even rescuing the people at the diner from a fire. I like this element as its like warning Alyssa from being hit by a football times 10. 


And yes I saved Alyssa for what feels like the million time but hey she saved us!!

Nightmares

Gosh was it haunting as we see a nightmare sequence fulled with the affect of what's happened to Max after the ordeal from the week. Its kinda cool as a big 'end boss' sequence and it was hard as I had I keep getting caught, going through the wrong directions and even scratch my head when when were playing a reverse version of episode one's intro. I freaking love the challenge as they upped the difficulty of previous episodes game play and maybe even give winks from behind the camera as some of our favorite part or least favorite part. Were you one of those who called Warren a creep? How about the time we laugh at Frank and his beans?? Did you hate that bottle scene? or play around with the character models in game files?? Good job dontnod as this is probably one of my favorite nightmares in any video game I've played... just stop haunting us with those god damn green bottles!!! 

Silent Hill life is Strange


Seriously?? are horror games gonna have never ending corridor to haunt us because Silent Hill got cancelled and that the demos got pulled of the play station site?


Though I'll admit it was both mess up and cool seeing the doors and Max's appearance change through the infinite corridor especially when we got to see where Rachael's room was. 

Stealth from creepy nightmare guys


A way to describe this is Maze Runner meets splinter cells.

Holy crap was this both hard and creepy as we play 'hide and seek' to dodging the nightmare version of the guys like Warren, frank, Samuel and even David. At this point Max's head is so mess up from what she went through in the bunker that it makes her think of the guys as such. Anyways this was like that locker sequence in episode 3 as we dodge the security wit the flashlight but a HELLA HARDER version! I keep getting caught and what's worse was when I was hiding from Warren I came across his locker with disturbing stuff.

We meet again Green Bottles... wait sit and chill???
 

Haha I seriously think this is the developers wink to all of us from episode 2 as we frustrate our selves for that last freaking bottle except this time we've got to stealth through nightmare guys through the game and guess what? now we have 6 bottles instead of 5 to find. Also want to solute the developers for adding their signiture 'sit and chill' corner for both Max and us the players to collect our minds before we continue scouting for the bottles. I always love when they added the 'sit and chill' moments in the game and in this episode, while we (so far I found) only have 2  moments I still always like this scenes where we and Max can gather our thoughts.

Characters


You know what... I was wondering if Max was ever gonna crack especially after what she's been through the in the last week and at the start of this episode so when that nightmare sequence was showed I know she's finally cracked. Man Max in this episode I really want to give her a hug especially after what's she's been through from eff up Jefferson to realizing that her rewinding time is what causes the storm. I like Max as a character and in this episode she's developed to being one of my favorite characters in fiction. I also like how even in a nightmare both reality and her dreams she can still be her quirky sarcastic self (but first need to take a picture even if I just stop my classmates from taking one). Mostly I like that we are seeing the vulnerable sides of her liker her fear of still being called a child after being thrown into the adult world, how mess up she thinks of guys after the ordeal in the bunker and even her fear or not being able to make friends. If Chloe was a character with a lot of deep layers thrown at us at the start, Max is a character that we slowly grow to learn her strengths and weaknesses or in other words we watch her come in terms with herself as a person which makes sense since this game IS Max's 'coming of age' story as she becomes and adult and face the realities of her decisions. 


How many layers of eff up can an eff up shit head get?? Exhibit A Mark Shitterson...

We have been foreshadowed from the VERY START of the game about his motives but in this episode we finally learn what a disturbing guy he is and the truth behind Rachael and Nathan. Mostly we learn why does he keep nagging Max to enter the photo contest or why he took photos of Kate and is not interested in Victoria. I was barely two minutes into the game and just watching him at work sent chills down my spine and made me sick in the stomach. 


For once David I don't see you as a step 'insert mean word here'.

Yes i knew it!! I called it in my prediction that David will probably be the one to save Max... but I also called like 50 other ways for her to escape but anyways its good to have a heart to heart talk with David. Him confessing that he has not been a great dad to Chloe and that he will apologize to her made me smile as we learn he does genuine care. Also as bad as a time as it was but my heart warmed up when he was talking about him having PTSD as well as have a hard time adjusting back to civilian life and that Joyce was the only person who understand what he went through. Its a nice closure to his character's story arc and its great to see him finally acting like a sane grown up.



Raise your hand if you were on franks good side not to mention keep him alive? 

I already mention that Frank was one of my favourite character whether he was mad at Chloe or not so it was great to see another side of him as he talked about his dad and how he wanted to changed for the better. Its sad when we were talking about Rachael as he did genuinely did care for her. Also his dog Pompadour is adorable when he's chill. Oh and nightmare Frank and his beans is probably my favorite part of the nightmare xD 


Well that's a surprise to see principal wells not being a shady jerk that we saw in episode one but instead for once acting like an authority figure and supporting Max. Its great as in episode 4 depending on your choices, Ms Grant will actually tell Max off saying he's under pressure from the Prescott and as well as trying to keep the school afloat due to financial problems. I noticed on youtube not a lot of lets players go to talk to him at the buffet table at the gallery but seriously if you didn't, go back to the art gallery scene and talk to him. You'll get to know what he's been going through and that he might get in trouble from his wife from happily nomming at the buffet xD ha that part was precious!! just as long as he does not get near to the alcohol.


Victoria was a big surprise to see her character change. She also missed my top 10 characters as I still was not a fan of her character till the very end of episode 4. I warned her in the previous episode about Nathan and I didn't think that she will go running to Jefferson... of cause she'll go running to Jefferson and got herself in the dark room. Dang it! Anyways I feel bad for her character as its only in episode 4 where we start to see her change and develop as a character and that while she's confident and a a-class bitchy mean girl on the outside, she's deep down actually not that confident and is pretty insecure. Man if you don't feel bad for Victoria in this episode then you obviously don't have emotions.


Speaking of Nathan... I was VERY disappointed with his story arc! There was so much build up about the Prescott taking control over Arcadia Bay and Nathan only to end in an emotionally heart sinking voicemail. 

Don't get me wrong, It was heart breaking hearing his voice in the voice mail and all that he's been through as he confesses to Max which made me hopped they will solve all of his issues and problems in this episode only to have him killed off and never been scene unless we count the nightmare or the bathroom seen in episode 1. His character and story got so much potential to tie in not to mention there are some unanswered question like like him knowing about the storm in episode 4... WTH?!?! I feel like something must have come up that they had to cut out something about Nathan cause why did we get so many build up in the last four episodes.


Depending on the players choice, we get a quick scene to comfort Kate back in the classroom. 

Its sweet and heartwarming seeing Max assuring Kate that there are people there for her. Also nightmare Kate was freaking sad! I feel for Max as her fears about Kate thinking she's not good enough of a friend to her. 


I'm so happy this scene happened!! I predicted we will confront Warren about Max powers and let's face it, even if you were nice to him through the game and even accepted his request to the drive in, Max still treats him kinda shitty and Warren is precious that he still sticks to Max's side. This was probably my favorite relationship building in this episode by far and I really like that the develpoers give you the option to romanticize either warren or chloe, both or none.  

Ah Warren is such a sweetheart in this episode. I'll admit my feelings for this guys have shift around a lot through the series as at times I think he is a genuine and caring friend and other times he was a bit creepy. But hey he' just an awkward teen guy who just discovered the beauty of infinite text message with a phone plan which explains why he loves blowing up Max phone. I'm pretty sure anyone with an infinite text message plan will send multiple messages with their besties *raising my hand slowly as I'm guilty of emoji spamming my friends at times* . Anyways I love the guy especially after the last episode when he went all APE and in this episode I crack up laughing at another ALMOST HUG *poor warren can't catch a break*. Anyways I kinda always know we will confront Warren about Max's powers and I'm both surprise and now surprise on how easy he took it. I seriously adore the guy in this episode and how he comforted Max after what she went through in the dark room. Anyways you'll have to check the discussion (click here!!!) to see what I choose before Max skadoo into that picture :P 


AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO WAS FREAKING DISAPPOINTED THAT WE NEVER GOT TO MEET RACHAEL? WHAT A JOKE! WHAT A TEASE! For a second there I seriously thought we will have a chance in one way or another to meet her in some beyond two souls sorta way where we figure out some mindblowing spiritual connection of her with Max. All this set up about Rachael leading Max was probably the biggest disappointment in the game.


What's interesting about this episode is that we have the least one on one interaction with Chloe. I mentioned that she's my all time favorite character in this game and seeing that last interaction with Max shows how much she's grown in the last 5 episodes. From the selfish and rude kid we saved in the bathroom back in episode 1, Chloe has grown and gotten over so much of the issue through the game. She learned to move on from her father's death, found the truth about Rachael and at her last action was wishing to be selfless. This is the reason why I love Chloe as a character. She's a shitty friend at times who at times acts more immature than Max but she's a genuinely loyal and caring friend and person who has finally learned to let go of the past.

Looks/ Sounds


This episode is Life is Strange at its darkest. We already had a change of tone at the end of episode 3 so how eff up does this episode get? Well how about barely 2 minutes into the game I get a sick pit in my stomach seeing the darkroom. I got creep up at the start of the nightmare. Yet even in the dark, the game manages to show some beautiful moments as nothing is black and white but grey in this game.


One thing that the game manages to hold was the nostalgia. Walking down that dark path of memory lane as we relieved stills from the past few days with Chloe was amazing as it reminds us that we came a long way to get here.

The art gallery moments was one of the few light hearted moments of the game and one of the best place to explore as Max goes into this Almost perfect alternate reality.I really like going up and listening to some people talk about Max's art or try to talk about Max's art (pretentious people...) as well as looking at all the 'everyday heroes' entries. Its modern yet classy and heck I'm usually someone who is clueless about art yet I really appreciate the level of detail put into this place making me want to explore as much as I can. 


And yes I say ALMOST cause you know... THE STORM!!! AND MAX ALMOST SAYING LIFE IS STRANGE!! haha good job Dontnod!!! 

Going through Arcadia Bay as a E6 tornado is hitting was scary as heck but still kinda cool how they set up the environment as buildings gets ripped apart while vehicles and dead whales get thrown around. Also I love how there time for Max to sit in the only safe house aka the diner and for us the players to sit and for us the players to catch our breath. Feels like we just beat through a swarm of zombies in L4D right? lolz


But of cause things gets mess up when you mess up with multiple realities... the burning rippling effect was a great touch to showing how damaged Max has cause through the multiverse. 


The transitioning from scene to scene is another favorite moment as we watch those picture or memories burned up and replaced with new ones.  

The music was my least favorite thing about this episode this episode as lets face it, it was depressingly sad, I found it cool that during the nightmare scene as Max relieve the first day of her getting her powers, they not only reverse that whole scene and dialog but also the song 'To all of you' by Syd Matters.


 Narrative/ Writing

I'm gonna admit... the narrative in this episode felt kinda short... its not the best but also not the worst. The pacing was actually faster than I expected (beat the game in 4 hours +++ which is the normal amount I need to play an episode including photo hunting and the number of times I had to redo the nightmare scene) but it still felt chompy and in consistant. All those photo hop made it confusing about the timeline. Some moments dragged on way too long like that nightmare of Chloe making out with almost everyone that we could potentially ship her with.

Yes we get a good conclusion for some of the character story arc like Jefferson and his motives, David and his PTSD, Princepal Wells and the pressure he has to keep the school afloat and most importantly how the story of Max and Chloe ends. Also good job to the dude who wrote those dark scene scenes as its the most disturbing moment in the game when we had to multiple times stare at drugged up Max and listen to creepy yet pretentious Jefferson.

But what about the others? Like all that build up with Nathan and the Prescott's involvement with Arcadia Bay? Or even some of  the characters like Samual or even Stella who if you were in the diner will learn a bit more about her problems. Heck we got a very vague truth about Rachael? Most importantly what are the origins of Max's powers?!

This is my biggest rear of any story as it comes to the end whether it be a tv show or even a book series is that we never really get a complete conclusion which leaves us loyal fans unsatisfied with the plot holes of the story. By the end of episode 4, its showed how diverged and complex it can get with its story telling and have actually set up so many things about some side stories and characters.

While I will say that this episode was not lazy writing or bad writing. It was good writing that while it made the conclusion simplified and cliche, they never sugar coated the situations we had to put through to get to the end. It still captivated me, made me feel and care about the story and the characters till the end. My favorite part of the game is still most the nightmare scene and the bit where we have to fight through the storm to get to the diner but have to overcome some obstacles.

This episode played a tug of war on my mind where it provokes and influence you for later on in the game of which is worth saving and sacrificing. While I was already knew what I was willing to sacrifice from the start, seeing the diner scene with all the people we interact with in the diner followed by that walk down memory lane made me question my decision I wanted to make which is the biggest charm of the game is that there are no right or wrong answers. Both ways have its goods and bads but at the end of the day its up to us the players on which choice is more desired. 

So yes, the ending was predictable. It was foreshadowed from the very start of the game and either ways was emotional and bittersweet though one was obviously more lengthier and detailed than the other. I know that the developers say that this is the end of Max and Chloe story but I seriously think there is something missing and this is not the end. Don't get me wrong I am satisfied and accept with how it had to end even if it was one of the hardest and most painful decision that I had to ever make in video game, it was foreshadowed from the very beginning so I was prepared to make that choice.   

Also lets remember what is the main idea of Life is Strange... its Max's coming of age story of her transitioning into adulthood, learning to take responsibilities for her actions, capturing moments and most of all accept reality. 

Book Recomendations

I have recommended an abundance of books through my reviews of Life is Strange and if I can i want to recommend all the amazing coming of age YA's out there as there are so many stories that I relate to or reminds me of Life is Strange. 



Melissa Kell is an amazing Aussie YA author who writes some of the most realistic coming of age stories. I especially love Incredible adventures of Cinnamon girl as it focuses on the a girl who has a fear of leaving the comforts of the childhood home and moving to Melbourne to persue her dreams of being a comic artist. If you like Chloe and her relationship with her dad as well as Max's passion for the art of photography in the game you need to check this out. Her other book My Life in Outer Space is also great especially if you like the story of a nerdy and awkward teenage boy who love horror films (*cough Warren) and is having a hard time trying to peruse the girl he likes (*cough definitely warren). 




Another Aussie YA I highly recommend is the Spark series by Rachael Craw. The book actually reminds me of a mixture of Life is Strange with the paranormal aspect of Beyond two souls where a teenage girl name Evie who recently lost her mum suddenly discovers that she was born with scientific engineered DNA and is a Shield. She must protect her friend Kitty who is a Spark from a Stray who is out to kill her... Okay that sounds Hella confusing and I'm not doing the book justice but I do have a review on the first two books Spark (click here) and Stray (Click here) and am now patiently waiting for the last book to come out in 2016 which is Shield. Read it if you love the mystery of life is strange, the friendship between Max and Chloe and most of all the magical realism elements except instead of rewind powers we have superhuman powers. Also a bonus, SWOON WORTHY HOW BRIT NAME JAMIE. Another bonus, FAST PACE EPICNESS EVERYWHERE!!!


Anatomy of a Misfit (Review Here) is a book I'll recommend if you like Victoria's mess up mean girl character who is not as mess up as we think and is actually quiet insecure. I love this book to pieces as its so snarky and laugh out loud hilarious yet emotional and heartbreaking. This is one of the few books that really made me cry so be warned... don't read it immediately after watching/playing Life is Strange.


Lastly is a book that I loved last year and the sequel is coming out REALLY SOON!! The Break-up artist (click here) is an amazing contemporary YA about a girl who anonymously breaks up couples for $100 in her paypal account. This book is amazing if you want an unlikely MC and story as it shows her realizing her mistakes and fixing the problems. Also if you like the detective board from episode four you might like this book as there are some really cool detective relationship parts here. 

Overall


Wowsers guys. I can't believe we are at the end of Life is Strange. Its bittersweet saying goodbye to a story that has helped me in my darkest times but also gowned attached to over the last couple of months. I still have mix feelings about this episode as I feel like we have A LOT of unanswered questions yet still it wrapped up the main goal of the game in somewhat a satisfying way. Whichever choice you choose it will have something happy along with something sad. Whatever choice I've made, whatever relationships I build and whatever I think of the game past, present and future, I was satisfied with my actions and playing life is strange is worth it. All of it.

Life Is Strange is such a smart and refreshing take on a gaming and even the YA genre that is an essential to be played/ experience whether you are a gamer or like a good story as it really makes you think and care for the characters and stories.



If anything in this episode or through playing the series affects you whether physically or emotionally, please go seek help and talk to someone. The developers have even set up a hotline site where they have linked all the places to seek help at Life is Strange Talk (Click here). Don't keep it to yourselves. If anything the game shows is no matter what there is somebody always out there to talk. 


So there you have it guys. My review and thoughts on the last episode of life is strange. Its been a fun and memorial journey to play and one of the best and most unique story I've seen in not just video games but fiction in general. Thank you Dontnod for making such a beautiful game and I'm looking forward to playing whatever games you guys have for us in the future and maybe even a DLC or season 2 of Life is Strange *hint *nudge *wink. Either way I had a great time with the game and following Max and Chloe's adventure so I hope you guys who have beaten the game think so to. 

Also check out my reviews and episode discussions for Life is Strange:
















The Storm has passed but life goes on, 
Happy Playing as Life is Hella Strange guys :P





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