Ionpath
Ioannis Tzoumas
 
 
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It is extremely rare to experience a game which can evoke such a strong emotional response to the player. I don't believe I have actually shed any tears from a video game before but I'm glad
Life is Strange
managed to make an adult man stare blankly at his screen for what seemed like hours, all to just push a single button, with tears rolling down his cheek.

Life is Strange has hundreds of thousands of positive reviews and critical acclaim from gamers and critics alike and I feel like mine might be entirely pointless in the grand scheme of things but I wanted to express how much this game, these digital characters, their stories and emotions, their thoughts and fears and vices, how they all contributed into creating one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had the privilege to have.

For the record, I'm a sucker for interactive story based games like Telltale used to make and for better or for worse I'm gonna make a few comparisons between them and Life is Strange.
So if you're familiar with the genre you're essentially thrust in a sort of 'choose your own adventure' book only this time you can't skip the page ahead and see where that takes you. Well with so many videos and walkthroughs online you can but that's not the point of the game.

You're in control of Max Caulfield, a 12th grade student in the fictional town of Arcadia Bay in Oregon, and without going into spoilers, you're about to embark on a great adventure, a coming of age type of story filled with many themes which teenagers, young adults and even older people can and will relate to regardless of their background,

Gameplay wise, you have the power to rewind time which allows you to change something that happened or you said to someone and to help people around the town. There's a couple of puzzles spread throughout each of the episodes but for the most part they're incredibly easy to figure out and they shouldn't be an issue for anyone. Doing something, or saying something will have an impact on the outcome in some aspects of the game but of course not everything weighs the same.

There's a very long debate to be had regarding the illusion of choice, that is to say that while the player thinks they have the freedom to significantly alter the course of the games' story, in reality they are being tricked by the game which essentially will lead to a few specific scenarios without too much differentiation regardless of the players actions.

To a certain degree, most of the latest Telltale games are guilty of that sin and to be honest, Life is Strange does that too but to a lesser extent. However this does not take away anything from the overall theme and power that the story in Life is Strange has to offer. While there are a few 'illusionary' moments in the game and while some choices are for the sake of what would seem mundane matters, Life is Strange will captivate the player in the character development and story progression.

When I started playing the game I was a little bit annoyed. I felt like an old man, yelling at kids to get out of his lawn. What are these teenagers doing? With their drugs, their parties, the backstabbing ♥♥♥♥♥es, social media matters, the high school drama. I felt getting irritated by their behavior but then it hit me... I was getting emotionally invested in these characters. I was actually participating in their lives, I actually cared about what was happening. Now that's a sign that the developers had done something very right.

The story is one of the best I've ever experienced in a video game, in particular an interactive adventure type one like Telltale games; honestly I would say it ranks amongst my top 5 in any game ever. There's a perfect mixture of supernatural, seriousness, humour, action and so much more.

There're plenty of themes that are explored in the game and there's absolutely something to heavily relate to which makes for an even more impressive way to have the player become engrossed in the game. You have lots of relationship themes, the game in my opinion is a tale about friendship and love, you can explore aspects of redemption, or fall from grace, of betrayal, parenthood... Seriously, the game has absolutely everything to offer to the player. Even more adult themes like sexuality and drugs are given ample time and they're never preachy, oppressive and are always done in a mature and tasteful manner. To see a game explore said themes without insulting the player is actually a breath of fresh air.

There's plenty of subtle stuff, but that's up to the player to draw their own conclusions based on their own experiences and the choices you'll have to make through the different episodes which will make you think hard before selecting an answer. Furthermore if you regret on a decision, you can rewind and choose another one! This core gameplay mechanic adds a needed amount of complexity to an already simplistic genre and I can only praise the developers for including that and having it intertwined with the story.

And lastly, the characters are imperfectly perfect. The people you will meet through your journey will feel like real people and not some pixels on the screen. The voice acting and mannerisms are one of the best I've ever seen in a game and they will elevate the story on whole different level. Max, the main character, is the most adorable, kind, considerate, strong young woman, I've ever had the pleasure to play as in a video game. She's not a sex object, she's not a supersoldier, she is a person whose inner strength (should you choose to harness it of course) is so powerful that she can shape the people and even the world around her... but that's for you to discover.

While I'm praising the game I also have to mention some of the lesser aspects of Life is Strange that while they don't take away anything from the brilliance that surrounds the game, they do look like sort of sore spot when compared to other games. First of all, the facial animations are mediocre at the best of times and outright bad on others. Because of the emotional state of the characters and the game itself, it is a bad reflection on the otherwise marvelous voice acting and emotions the characters convey with the colour of their voice. The models are pretty OK but the lip syncing and facial animations are lackluster. And while Telltale early games were marginally better, they managed to up their game later and since Life is Strange is a 2015 game, the same year when Tales from the Borderlands released (comparing the best Telltale game here), I can sadly say that there could have been a lot more done on that department. That was the only significant flaw I found with game, besides the simplicity of some of the puzzles as well but that's less relevant overall in my opinion.


Life is Strange is a game I would consider art. The game's characters and story cannot be praised enough and I believe everyone should play this game. I'm trying to imagine it as a very successful TV show but I believe most of the messages and themes the game explores would be lost on the TV. While playing the game, simultaneously as yourself and Max you will fall in love with characters, you will hate others, you will experience things on and beyond the typical young adult lifestyle and during the final episodes you will tear up, maybe just a little but enough to know what you experience goes way beyond the monetary cost of the game. This game is a perfect example of how video games can expand beyond their shell and become works of art. Life is... weird. If you're gonna play an interactive story game ever in your life, make sure is this one. I cannot recommend it highly enough, an absolute masterpiece.
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Don.M Aug 29 @ 3:58pm 
I absolutely love your reviews @Ionpath keep up the legendary work!!!