The little things. Small details. Seemingly insignificant events. The butterfly and the hurricane. Episode 2 of Life is Strange starts slow and I almost feel as if Max, the central protagonist, is not even aware that the inertia of the every day world is controlling her life. It starts with an alarm, a shower, getting dressed, returning a borrowed book and meanders on without direction or thought.
It is all about the little details in life. Even the small number of puzzles are monotonous and all about little details. It takes me a while to realize that this bold strike into the territory of mundane teenage life has given the characters and the plot an emotional weight that is very real and palpable. It also creates a contrast between the ordinary and extraordinary and gives the emotionally charged incidents towards the end of the chapter a much harder punch.
About DontNod Entertainment
Dontnod Entertainment is a French video game developer. Remember Me, their first game was published 2 years ago by CapCom. Life is Strange is their second game published by Square Enix. It is an episodic game with the first two installments released early in 2015 and the final two still to come.
Dontnod is based in Paris, has 70 employees and “develops video games for HD platforms based on original concepts and innovative technology.”
RRP: £3.99 for episode 3. £15.99 for all 5 episodes.
Players: Single Player
Full controller support
Language: English (interface, subtitles and full audio) and French (interface and subtitles only)
PEGI 16/ESRB M (Mature)
Platform: PC (Windows/Steam), PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Life is Strange is a graphic adventure for adults (and almost adults) who enjoy the genre. Game play largely consists of observing people and the environment, picking up items to look at, talking to characters to advance the plot and snooping around other people’s stuff, with or without their permission. There is no combat, there is no skip this conversation or cut scene on the first play through and the main objective and enjoyment is figuring out people, including Max, the main protagonist.
It requires a certain level of buying into the world, the genre, the game mechanics and its presentation to in turn, slowly unravel a story with some unexpected twists and turns. If this sounds great, you’re the target audience.
Ease of use
It is easy to set-up and play through Steam.
OS: Windows Vista (Windows 7 recommended)
Processor: Dual Core 2.0GHz or equivalent (Dual Core 3.0GHz or equivalent recommended)
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: ATI or NVidia card w/ 512 MB (1024MB recommended) RAM (not recommended for Intel HD Graphics cards)
DirectX: Version 9.0
Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
It requires an internet connection to download and install.
Life is Strange: Episode One is accessible to anyone with a mild to moderate visual impairment, has blurred vision, is colour blind or experiences simulation sickness.
The text used in the menu, user interface and for subtitles are standard size in a relatively easy to read font always in white etched against the normal game background. This can make it hard to read when the background is lighter colours. Interactive elements are marked with white, which is visible when the object is dark, but less so with lighter colours.
There is no repetitive bright patterns, flash or flicker and the glare from Episode 1 has been toned down significantly. The time rewind mechanic is still a heavy visual effect that could be problematic for anyone with severe simulation sickness or visually triggered migraine.
Colour alone is not used as an indicator in the game.
The game is highly accessible to deaf players or those with hyperacusis (sound sensitivity) that may prefer playing without sound and also very accessible for anyone with a hearing impairment or tinnitus.
I played some of the game with and some without sound with no discernible difference. Sound can be adjusted through four sliders – master, music, voice and SFX volume. I turned up the music and special effects and turned down the voice for a change as it’s the ambient sounds that add the most to the atmosphere and character of the game.
Subtitles are automatically turned on, but do not indicate who is speaking.
Touch and input
Life is Strange is accessible for anyone with a physical impairment or symptoms that affect their accuracy, responsiveness or dexterity. It is also easy to play with one hand using the mouse.
Very little precision or accuracy is required to play. Roll the analog or move the mouse more or less over interactive objects and the option to view or interact pops ups.
Responsiveness is not a requirement and although some actions are based on a timer, the time rewind option is available to rewind until you get it right and these are not Quick Time Events, it’s mostly just moving out of the way within a set time.
The game can be paused at any time to allow for a break, but there is no manual save, so I had to play either until the next checkpoint or lose some game play when I had to stop playing unexpectedly.
The physical controls are easy to use and on PC all keys are remappable and fullscreen can be turned off to access windowed mode. The game relies on single button presses as well as button holds for playing, including having to hold the left mouse button whilst dragging to select a specific option. If you can click, press and hold, it’s easy to play.
Movement and mobility
Motion sickness and balance disorders
It is a third person perspective that is quite accessible to anyone who experiences motion sickness or has a balance disorder with dizzy spells. There is some simulated movement, but the viewpoint is usually from the side, not as a passenger, which I found easy to tolerate. Those with severe motion sickness maybe experience some mild issues as much of the game mechanics are based on searching through areas for interactive elements and requires the player to continuously move and manipulate the viewpoint.
Life is Strange is accessible to play for anyone with a cognitive impairment or learning difficulty. The controls are easy to learn and use, all game mechanics are introduced gradually and text is provided as both audio and text. It follows a linear path with only one goal set at a time. There are no complex mental tasks involved, the inventory is at most one item at a time and interactive elements are clearly marked. Menus are shallow and clear and there is a log book that provides information at the push of a button.
There is one memory and detailed oriented puzzle, but with unlimited access to the rewind feature, it was possible to repeat the sequences until I could get all the details right. There is also a small requirement for basic mathematics, adding up the value of a few coins.
It is a character and plot driven game and much of the enjoyment comes from understanding and learning about other characters. The plot unfolds around dialogue and narrative, making it crucial to be able to understand and follow the story through language and characterization.
None. It is a single player game.
It is a character driven game and much of the enjoyment comes from learning more about the other characters in the game by engaging with them, interacting with items in the environment that provide information about them and the theme carries on with text messages automatically sent and received with different social social subplotlines.
Trigger warnings and age ratings
PLOT SPOILERS included in the paragraph below.
Episode 2 has a much heavier emotional current and includes themes that may be upsetting. There is realistic looking violence and bullying is a prominent feature. Bad language, illicit drugs, underaged drinking and smoking is shown. There are conversations centred around typical teen topics and problems. Depression, desperation, ridicule, a girl being drugged, sexually assaulted and a video put up on-line about it is a central story element that culminates in (attempted) suicide. The player is in the position to prevent or fail to prevent her death.
Life is Strange: Episode 2 is an emotionally charged experience. The game play is easy, the dialogue stinted, but thankfully sparse, the story and world has many inconsistencies, but despite and maybe even because of its flaws, it succeeds in a way few games ever do. I felt emotionally involved. I felt responsible. I felt conflicted. I felt helpless to alter or control events despite having a superpower. The characters and their world felt real as long as I was willing to buy into their world and I did because I had an emotional investment to see how life turns out for them. Looking forward to see what Episode 3 brings.
Product: Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time | Developer: Dontnod Entertainment | Publisher: Square Enix | Platform: PC (Windows/Steam), PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 | Genre: Graphic Adventure | Players: Single player | Version: Europe | Release Date: 24 March 2015 |Content Rating: PEGI 16+