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12/30/2017 10:30:07 •••

Developers Are Strange

It's a credit to the creators of Life Is Strange that they tick a truly audacious number of my pet peeve boxes, and still walk away with a game experience worthy of remembrance. By all rights, I should hate its often undue self-importance; its cloying indie music sung by people who sound inches from death; and its railroaded decision-making (more on that later)... But in the end its strengths outnumber its weaknesses. (Not overly so, but still; there it is.)

Life Is Strange begins as a slice-of-life high school drama that quickly spirals (no pun intended) into a high-stakes missing persons mystery of apocalyptic proportions. Amidst all this—though satisfying enough in its own right—it never loses sight of its heart; namely, capturing the highs and lows of the semi-independence inherent to the high school age hinterlands of childhood and adulthood, with wit and verve. (Even if the writing screams of Totally Radical to the point of narm from time to time.)

Eager to apply subversion to its initially archetypal characters, the game's Pacific Northwest setting is filled with interesting characters of more than a few Hidden Depths. Regardless of their placement on the sliding scale of morality, a majority of the cast have some measure of positive or sympathetic traits, up to and including Alpha Bitches and drug dealers. How much like humans, no?

Though mostly beholden to the often action-oriented approach of the 2010s' new school of adventure games, LiS knows how to take its time and really let you soak in its beautifully mundane setting of Arcadia Bay. Despite the darkness of its story, it always knows when to give the player the chance to breathe. The loving attention paid to things like lighting and detail enhance the experience, and offset its less-than-AAA production values. The music can even be quite effective, if kept purely instrumental.

The game's biggest flaw, as already remarked upon, is the lack of a meaningful level of choice. I'm not talking about the subtle level of influence of choices in Telltale games; no, the error lies with character writing occasionally being completely tone-deaf to the story it's telling, with no opportunity for input on the player's part. Multiple characters remark upon their hatred for Arcadia Bay, ostensibly for being a Wretched Hive. Sure, it has its share of bad people like any town, but what kind of a Disneyland were they expecting?

And at one point, the game gives you what should be a Sadistic Choice of sacrificing one to save many, or vice versa. Even had said "one" not proved themselves unworthy of such a sacrifice, I will never choose one over many... at least if my decision can remain as disaffected and pragmatic as in a video game. Any other choice I'd view as sociopathic, at best.

Though marred by a host of baffling creative choices, Life Is Strange is still a game the memories of which I shall treasure.

12/29/2017 00:00:00

\"I\'m not talking about the subtle level of influence of choices in Telltale games-\"

This was a good review, and I liked it, and I agree with your flaws and your praises, but I just finished The Walking Dead: Season 2 and I can\'t tell if you\'re being sarcastic or not here. I like Telltale Games but they\'ve always been the most railroaded it is possible for a game to be. Telltaleroaded.

12/30/2017 00:00:00

Telltale Games doesn't make Lucas Arts-Humongous Entertainment-like ADV's, they're more like slightly-interactive movies.


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