LIFE IS STRANGE: CHRYSALIS (EPISODE 1)
By Kevin "Methodone89" van Dongen on February 9, 2015
Life is strange is an episodic, story-driven graphic adventure game, created by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix. The complete game will consist of 6 episodes, which will form one complete story. Life is Strange revolves around 18 year old Max Caulfield; a shy girl with a passion for photography, who tries to get through high school without too much fuss. She has a real talent for photography but because she's somewhat insecure, she can't truly shine in her field.
Dontnod Entertainment really succeeded in setting a great atmosphere in Life is Strange. The way Max reacts to her fellow classmates is pretty much the way any of us would react. Her classmates consist of a bunch of stereotypes; there’s the pretty and snooty know it all, the dumb and mean jock, the inevitable bunch of nerds and of course Max, the shy girl and heroine of our story. It's hard not to bond with Max because of the way she reacts on situations. She ignores people, puts on music so she can drift away in her own world and forgets her surroundings. It's clear she has issues, which make you instantly care for her just that little bit more.
The game starts with Max waking up in a forest while a terrible storm is brewing. As the storm rages on you make your way to a lighthouse. Once you arrive at the lighthouse, it suddenly collapses and you wake up in your classroom. Was it just a dream?
You now have to sit through an entire lecture about photography and you can't wait to get out of there. Once the lecture has finished, you walk through the school halls and have to go to the bathroom. Once you're in the bathroom you see a butterfly coming in, a once in a lifetime photo opportunity. Then, all of a sudden, a boy comes in and starts talking to himself. He's immediately followed by a girl and they start an argument. Out of the blue, the boy pulls out a gun and shoots the girl. When you try to help her and reach for her, everything goes black…
…and you wake up in the exact same classroom you were in before. Being disorientated from this ordeal, you accidentally drop your camera on the floor, where it breaks into pieces. She suddenly discovers she can rewind time for a few seconds, and is able to save her precious camera.
With the power to rewind time you can now undo stupid choices you have made, but keep in mind you can only rewind time for a few seconds. After every choice you need to make, you have the opportunity to rewind time back to the point where you made the choice in question, just as long as this choice wasn’t made too far into the past. Utilizing this power means you can play with the story; you get to see the direct outcome of your choices and rewind when needed. Keep in mind that although you can rewrite your past choices, you can't know what the future holds. A choice made now may feel right but who knows what outcome it has in store for you in the near future. Rewinding is limited to certain scenes in the game and (for now) still feels kind of forced. You will see a warning on screen when you can rewind time. I can imagine though, that this, being the first chapter of the game, is done so people can get to know the concept of rewinding time by playing through a few simple examples before Dontnod springs the more formidable brain-teasers on them.
This episode feels like an introduction; you get to know the character, get to know the surroundings and get to know the mechanics of the game. You might not get to know Max as well as you possibly would have liked, the game keeps a lot in the dark, about.. well, everything actually. This results in making choices you don't (yet) care about as deeply as you should. It sometimes feels like your choices would have more meaning if you knew where the story was going. And believe me when I think this story is definitely going somewhere. I can just feel that throughout this whole episode, Life is Strange is building towards something awesome, so let's hope that my feeling is correct. Life is Strange has the potential to be a great game with a great story, great characters and brilliant gameplay mechanics.
That being said, Life is Strange might not be the most beautiful game out there, but it still feels right and quickly immerses you in its story. Lip syncing could have been done a bit better, especially because the game has an American setting. Sometimes it feels like watching a old Japanese movie, which has its own special kind of charm of course. Somehow though, it all adds up and makes for one great experience!
I am really looking forward to episode 2 of Life is Strange, which hopefully will be even stranger than the first!