I had no idea what to expect going in to my preview of Dontnod Entertainment’s Life is Strange. I only have a passing familiarity with the game they’re best known for, Remember Me, but I enjoy a good mystery so I was anxious to learn more.
And now I’m anxious to see the rest of the game.
Life is Strange is in many ways a high school drama in game form. Maxine (Max) Caulfield and her family had to leave their home in Arcadia Bay several years ago. Now they’ve moved back, and Max is trying to make sense of the pieces of her old life.
This isn’t a Dawson’s Creek high school, though. In the little snippet we were shown, it quickly became apparent that everybody in Arcadia Bay has problems – some of them very serious – and a whole lot of them seem to lead back to the sudden disappearance of a young girl. There looks to be some seriously dark stuff going on behind the scenes, and Max is undoubtedly going to get pulled into the mystery.
The visuals are a hybrid of realistic, cell-shaded, and something almost like a painting. It’s quite striking to look at. Meanwhile the game plays very much like a Telltale adventure game mixed with a little bit of Heavy Rain. You, as Max, will be exploring your environment to solve puzzles and progress the story. Depending on what you do and how you approach conversations, a number of different results could play out. The over-arching events will, of course, remain the same, but the way in which you interact with different characters and objects might reveal details you’d have otherwise missed. It might also have a significant impact on how others perceive you.
But there’s a twist.
Before long, Max learns that she can manipulate time in short bursts – meaning she can rewind events and potentially change the outcome. A simple example is when, during the demo, she accidentally knocks something breakable off a shelf and then rewinds time so that it never happened. Thus her friend is no longer mad at her for breaking something because she never really did.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Life is Strange was inspired by the memory segments from Remember Me; plus the developers have confirmed it anyway. But this isn’t just a gameplay gimmick. Max can also rewind time to solve puzzles and completely change the course of a conversation. If you don’t like the way things have turned out, you can go back and try it again. Within reason, of course. You can’t rewind past checkpoints.
Life is Strange will be coming to the Playstation 3 and 4, the Xbox 360 and One, and PC next year, spread across five different episodes that run about two hours each. And when it does, I suggest you give it a look.