Let’s be honest here: my guiltiest pleasure is video games. I own almost every video gaming console since the super Nintendo until the ps3 and Xbox 360. I consume A LOT of video games, ranging from FPS, MMORPGs, RPGs, simulation games like the Sims and many more genres. Since I’ve learned how to use a gaming controller since I was 3 years old (thanks Mom for transmitting your gaming passion to me!), I’ve developed some particular tastes in video games.
First, sexist games are out of the question -yay main female characters! -, as I’m a girl, I hate sexism in general, no matter if it’s directed toward the female or male populations. Secondly, overly violent games are not really my thing (beside when I’m super mad and I really need to play Hyrule Warriors and smash those darn Bokoblins out of my way). Thirdly, I have a (giant) soft spot for independent games, independent movies, independent music, and other types of independent products. I strongly encourage the independent movement to create art and products that are either against or parallel to the mainstream marketing and consumer products. It is then normal that I tend to love independent video games and actively follow their production,work, and products.
Life is Strange is an episodic game developed by DONTNOD Entertainment, an independent french video game company based in Paris, with the help of Square Enix. The first episode titled “Chrysalis” was released on January 29 2015, and “Polarized”, the final episode, was released on October 20 2015. The game is composed of 5 episodes, that each represent an important chapter in Maxine Caufield’s journey in Arcadia Bay (a fictional town in Oregon).
I will try as hard as I can to not reveal ANY SPOILER as I explain why I love Life is Strange so much.
Of all the video games I have played, if I could only play one until the end of time, I would choose Life is Strange. I like that game so much that I dedicated a university project to it! (here’s the link to it: http://andreannedupere.com/a3-artist-book/). Not only did I believe the aesthetics of the game were very beautiful and “artsy”, the game itself was relatively simple yet surprisingly deep.
The aesthetics of the games are lovely. The whole game looks as if the artists that designed the whole game carefully painted every single shot and every object seen in game. It is carefully crafted and surely shows a lot of love from its makers, while hiding countless easter eggs referencing to other cultural products such as Twin Peaks, World of Warcraft, Back to the Future, Blade Runner, and so much more. Everything in the game screams “artsy” and indie, from the watercolour-esque aesthetics, especially the hipsterish Max who only take pictures with her polaroid cameras.
Life is Strange isn’t just a pretty game about girls taking polaroid pictures, college drama and romance. While some have described it as “Tumblr: the game”, I’d beg to differ from their superficial view of this video game industry jewel. I didn’t suspect it to be that deep. I didn’t suspect that a potentially harmless video game would make me cry (I never cry while watching movies).
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
Maxine Caufield and Chloe Price'(mis)adventures in Arcadia Bay are scary, hilarious, entertaining, emotional and enthralling. After surprising Nathan Prescott threatening a mysterious blue headed punk, Max discovers that she can rewind time. She later finds out that the blue headed punk was her former best friend, Chloe Price, and that she changed a lot since her father’s death. A series of strange events happen in Arcadia Bay, with the disappearance of Rachel Amber, a student from Blackwell Academy and a close friend of Chloe Price. Their investigations take a darker twist when they discover clues linked to Rachel’s disappearance and the misfortunes of Kate Marsh, a catholic student attending Blackwell Academy.
Like Bioware’s Mass Effect, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Jade Empire games and Red Thread Game’s Dreamfall: Chapters, every choice made by the player has consequences and a big influence on what happens next. If you’re not satisfied by some choice you made or the result of some conversations with characters, you can always rewind time and try again. My favorite aspect of the game, after its well “constructed” characters, is the soundtrack. It’s a unique mix of indie-folk influences that will charm your ears as you play the game. Since three months, I have literally been playing the soundtrack of Life is Strange on repeat,
DONTNOD’s jewel will make you rethink your life choices, your broken friendships, the decisions you make everyday and how your life would have turned out to be if you had made different decisions (and if you would have the ability to rewind time). You will grow attached to the characters in the game, you will grow to love them, to care for them and to cry with them as their existence is on the verge of a crisis. The side effects may vary from crying, rethinking why you deleted that friend from Facebook, wondering about how your childhood friends are doing, and endless questions about the universe and the infinity of possibilities (in reality and all alternate realities).
The most dangerous side effect of playing Life is Strange is the following: you are most likely to become addicted to it or to love it.
Here’s an extract from Max’s journal from the first episode of the game to give you a taste of the game:
“This will be the weirdest journal entry I will ever make. So weird I don’t know how or where to start. But it started with the most vivid dream of my life. I was lost in a storm by the lighthouse until I came to the edge of the cliff.
Then I saw a giant tornado headed for Arcadia Bay. It was so real that I could feel the rain stinging my face. And I was scared shitless. Then a boat hit the lighthouse and I swear I actually felt like I was going to die.
But I woke up in Mr. Jefferson’s class and I wasn’t even sleeping. I almost fell out of my chair. Jefferson called on me but I totally blew the answer. Of course Victoria pounced on me and made me look like a bigger idiot. She’s so awful. Then I didn’t have the guts to turn in a photo for the “Everyday Heroes” contest while Victoria did her usual suck-up to Jefferson. He’s so cool and he clearly wants me to succeed.
I felt so shitty. I just wanted to get to the bathroom to be alone and wash my face after that nightmare. Or daymare. Once I got to the bathroom, I saw this odd beautiful blue butterfly flutter in and right when I took a photo of it in the corner, Nathan Prescott came in freaking out, talking to himself. I hid in the corner and this punk girlcame in and they started arguing about drugs and money. Then […]”
If you’ve played Life is strange, tell me what you thought of the game in the comments below!
Image credit goes to DONTNOD Entertainment, Life is Strange artwork: http://lifeisstrange.com/index.php#89360156