I like Telltale-style games: Video-game stories that evolve as you make decisions throughout the game. Most of the games I’ve played in this genre are based on major commercial properties: Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Back to the Future.
Life is Strange, published by Square Enix, is based on an original concept. You play Max Caulfield, a teenage high-school student in a Northwestern town. Within the first ten minutes of playing the game, you (and she) discover that you have the ability to rewind time.
This a significant ability in a story-telling game. Normally, once you make a decision you’re stuck with it for the rest of the game. In Life is Strange, if you don’t like the result of a choice you can rewind and play it again. This lets you look through all the dialog options with the other characters and make informed decisions for how you’d like a scene to play out. You can also use the rewind ability to solve puzzles, since items you pick up go back in time with you, and you return to the spot where you started the rewind.
Life is Strange‘s story falls into the “magical realism” category: Apart from the rewind ability, Max’s life is grounded in the real world reality of living as a typical mis-understood teenager. Max deals with career choices, making friends, fellow students who are dealing with depression, suicide, and drug use.
This leads to my one source of dissatisfaction with the game: it spends a lot of time dealing with teenage-style angst issues. It seems like a waste of time when there’s a potential murder to solve and hints that a disaster is coming that could wipe out the town.
The game has other rough spots: There were a couple of locations where I spent a lot of time wandering around looking for items that were hard to see on the screen, often for tasks whose only purpose was to resolve an unimportant plot point that the game wouldn’t let me skip.
Overall, I liked the game. It was a change of pace from the over-the-top fantasy action games I usually play. It shows there’s a place in the videogame world for human stories.