Life is Strange is an indie game that we all probably know and love at this point in the game. But if you know me, you know that BOY HOWDY do I have a lot to say about this game.
Life is Strange comes into the gaming sphere classified as an episodic adventure game. It’s another butterfly effect inspired game that incorporates player choice into an elaborate storyline. It quickly gained a following and Chloe and Max are now beloved by many fans (including me). I’ve classified this review into categories for easy reading below, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on one of the best (AND WORST) games I’ve ever played.
Graphics and Sound: The art style and voice acting (with a couple of exceptions) was excellent. There was a definitive stylistic aspect to the game that added to its appeal exponentially, with notebook-doodle style cursors and menus and semi-simplistic character models tiptoeing a fine line between stylized and realistic. I would say that a little more detail wouldn’t have hurt, but overall it works for the kind of game that it is. The soundtrack was absolutely fucking beautiful. The sound effects, ambience, music, literally all of it was spot-on. However, as I will get to later, I can’t listen to it anymore without sobbing like a drunk guy on the phone with his ex on Valentine’s Day.
Gameplay: There’s really not too much gameplay to speak of. The gameplay was all story based, with some exploration of a limited environment. It was cute and relatively well done. The rewind mechanic was the crown jewel of this game’s controls, and when it was used it was satisfying and well-made. I do feel that it would have been nice to be able to interact with a few more objects and have even more opportunities to use the time-stop mechanic. However, getting an ongoing internal monologue from Max was great and added to the immersion of the game for me as a player.
Storyline: And here comes the fucking tornado. Literally. The game’s story was incredible. It’s involved, it’s touching. The characters are three dimensional and full of personality. You make connections with these characters, and rekindle Max’s friendship with Chloe, which is presented in a way so fucking touching that it made me fall in love with both of them. The game touches on the topics of bullying, sexual assault, mental illness, teen sexuality, friendships, parental abuse, classism, drug use, and many other relevant issues in the same vein. The super cool, irritatingly hipster-esque teacher turns out to be a horrifying monster who drugs his students in order to take pictures of them to capture their “innocence.” He was a great villain and made for an excellent plot twist, though it was sickening and VERY rapey. Biggest gripe with him was that he definitely descended into a “crazy tortured artist” type and didn’t fully explain his motivation besides a terrifying obsession. Not being able to shred his face physically at the end was also a definite downer, especially when Max has to be rescued by the gross stepdad of Chloe so he can be redeemed for seemingly no reason.
This brings me to my biggest, loudest, angriest gripe: the ending.
After spending the entirety of the game making choices, interacting with the simple townsfolk, building relationships and saving lives in addition to befriending Chloe, the blue-haired love of my life and Max’s best friend, we are faced at the end with an enormous fucking tornado created by Max’s use of time-travel (and thus causing a natural disaster via butterfly effect). In order to stop this tornado, lucky Max gets to chose whether to go back to the beginning of the game and let Chloe get shot in a fucking bathroom, or to keep Chloe alive and run off to Portland to start a hipster coffee shop at the expense of DESTROYING THE ENTIRE TOWN AND EVERY LIVING SOUL IN IT. I might add that none of the choices that you made prior to this affects the endings you get. At this point, main-character Max has experienced countless kinds of trauma, watching her best friend die multiple times, being threatened and stalked, saving a friend from committing suicide, reliving being kidnapped and drugged multiple times by a teacher, and a fucking nightmare that involves sneaking past every man in the game (INCLUDING TWO FRIENDLIES) while they call your name and say absolutely HORRIFYING things while you try to avoid being caught. The fucking icing on this steaming pile of trauma cake is the fact that you have to either shoulder the responsibility for an entire town’s destruction on top of all that other shit while keeping the only person who has shared Max’s experiences and can offer some form of support alive, or you end up murdering her closest friend (implied lover), and having everything that you did reset so that Max has full memory of all of the horrors she experienced and has to deal with it completely alone, knowing that she could have saved Chloe. Very Mass Effect 3-esque, right down to the feelings of pain and utter betrayal. Did you really have to bury the gays, guys? Now just to be clear, I don’t require every ending to be sunshine and rainbows and riding into the sunset, but I’m getting awfully sick of this trope that seems to specifically occur when gay couples are involved. Seriously, the ending was such a letdown, particularly since the happy moments slow to a dying-snail crawl at the third episode’s beginning. The game eventually begins feeling like that sadness swamp in The Neverending Story, where you’re slogging your way through it and drowning in your own misery the more that the game goes on. Then after all of the horror you endure, the game slams you with that kind of choice and rewards your choice with a cinematic ending that is heart-wrenching and lacking in depth. I can honestly say that I will never play this game again despite loving it, purely because the ending was so disappointing.
In conclusion: This game hurt me. It hurt me real bad. It opened my heart and took a steaming shit in it and then curb-stomped it. 7/10. (if it had a better ending it would have made a 9)