Thursday, June 25, 2015

Life Is Strange Episode 1 Review

Dontnod Entertainment advances the choice and consequences formula made popular by Telltale Games, with an interesting time rewinding mechanic, set around an interesting story about power, corruption, bullies, and a mystery surrounding an impending disaster.

The first chapter of Life Is Strange takes place at a private high school named Blackwell, where an art student named Max discovers that she has the power to rewind time when she witnesses a confrontation in the girl's bathroom.  This is the crux of the story, but things delve deeper when she discovers that the incident was only the tip of the iceberg, and violence is a common occurrence at Blackwell.  However, she finds that due to the corruption of the school and the town, it's hard to make any permanent changes with her new found powers.  Some of the dialog is a bit weak, especially the forced use of teen slang that is quite awkward, both in the written form and when spoken by the voice actors.  However, the story itself is fantastically written, and the violent atmosphere surrounding the school feels all too real, which definitely offsets the few moments of awkwardness in some of the dialog.

The real shining gem of this series is definitely the rewind mechanic, which is put to good use here. Max can rewind time at any point, to do anything from catch bits of background activity that she might have missed to making a new choice in a major decision that is presented to her.  The choice and consequences system is laid out much like Telltale's games.  Max is presented a variety of options in a situation, and she must make her choice.  The choices affect events later in the episode, as well as in episodes that happen later down the road.  The Telltale influence extends into the user interface as well, as gamers are informed via a graphic that her choices will have consequences.  The rewind mechanism makes things a little more relaxed than in Telltale's offerings however, as choices don't have to be made on the spot as mandated by a timer.  If the gamer wants to have Max make a different decision, the decision can be rewound in the episode itself, rather than having to be done later via the menu, which also means that the remainder of the episode doesn't need to be replayed if the choice has been changed.  However, once Max leaves that location, her powers can no longer extend to that choice, and any choice made will be set in stone.  The game also deviates from the most recent of Telltale's games in that it contains environment puzzles.  The puzzles aren't any more difficult than those found in The Walking Dead, but like that game, they work well within the game's world, and work well with the rest of the game mechanics, as opposed to feeling tacked on for the sake of the genre.

The voice acting is excellent, and the voice actors do a great job showing the seedy underbelly of Blackwell at work.  As mentioned before, some of the dialog is clunky, and the voice actors can't overcome this, however the awkward slang is pretty sparse, and every other line delivery by the voice actors is top notch.  The music works as well.  While it's not memorable, it sets the tone of the game, and frames the voice performances quite nicely.

Chrysalis is an excellent start to an intriguing entry into the choices and consequences genre.  There are some environment puzzles, although they aren't very challenging.  However, the rewind mechanic far overcomes any qualms about easy puzzles.  It's a great addition to the genre, and works well with the choices and consequences mechanic.  The story is intriguing and well written, with the exception of some clunky slang which feels forced.  The voice acting and the music are also top notch. Overall, the first chapter is a great start, and is well worth playing.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

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