I want to love, Life is Strange, but what’s going on in its second episode is cluttered. Still atmospherically enticing, Dontnod’s indie influenced episodic tale is a disarray of ideas dependent upon superficially and uncomfortably awkward surface value. Fortunately, a memorable finale brings the series’ greatest ideas to an emotional peak, in a payoff worth your attention. Its wonderful and unique style manage to hold onto intrigue, but detrimental player interactions, awful dialogue and sporadic voice acting pull Out of Time to the edge of mediocrity.
Life is Strange rides a roller coaster of high highs, and low lows. We pick up shortly after the events of Chrysalis, as relevant issues surface and Max’s powers begin to see limitations. The story of our leading lady grows darker. Her counterpart, Chloe, has opened up to her returning presence and their friendship is peeled back, exposing layers of believable connection. Still recovering from the altercation with rich kid, Nathan Prescott, in the previous episode, Max makes her way through the halls of Blackwell Academy looking over her shoulder. Though Prescott still poses a threat, school drama escalates as a video gets passed around of a student engaging in sexual activity. At the joke’s end is Kate Marsh, a scared girl leaning on Max for help. Taking on the weight of what seems to be the entire town’s problems, Max trudges her way through the over two hour runtime with little to love.On paper, Life is Strange has a magnificent outline. I praised its premiere episode for the magical sense of place, atmospheric soundtrack and mechanic of time reversal, and while those hold true, its positive first impressions wear off as negativity outweighs the game’s initial wonder. Each character description seems compelling and the over-arching narrative intriguing, but when transitioned to game, Life is Strange struggles to stay afloat with real-world synergy. Character interaction is plagued by disastrous dialogue, painful voice acting and non-sensible outcomes. The teachers are cringeworthy with their cliché corrupt motives and leaps in legal structure. Parents offer no redemption either, as shortsighted incompetence to see what’s going on around them is foolish beyond plausibility. Adults act like children, while children try to be adults.
Max and Chloe’s moments, alone, are much of Out of Time’s saving grace. When the story tries too hard to push what’s “edgy and relevant”, Max and Chloe’s relationship is a good fallback. As the player you can tell these girls have a past and their friendship goes further than just what we’ve seen. Together, the duo delves deeper into what Max’s power can carry out. In an attempt to hand control off to the player, puzzle sequences feel far too “game like” and ultimately detract from the experience due to unnecessary trial and error.Arcadia Bay remains a huge highlight. The beautiful art style once again capitalizes on a small town feel, while interaction with the world is great, but the inhabitants feel dull and fake. Cartoon-like characters make up all of Life is Strange’s cast. Making its return, unpredictably atrocious voice acting makes it even tougher to understand the hardships these characters are going through. One second someone is crying, the next they’re perfectly overcome with calmness; emotions don’t logically add up. What’s coming out of characters’ mouths isn’t any triumph, either. Dialogue is spastic, destructive and lacks important context. At no point was I devoted to any party involved, as even Max’s spoken words fell flat. No clear taste is given to any individuals, rather a heavy dependence on calamitous stereotypes to lead the story.
Out of Time tries to tackle some big issues, mainly, the extremes of bullying. And while this affair is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly, Life is Strange’s take on it feels like an easy-out to gain access to your heartstrings in order to make up for its missteps. It’s finale unarguably leaves an impactful lasting impression, but when it came down to it, I didn’t care. This is not due to lack of compassion, empathy or understanding on my part, but rather Dontnod’s messy execution.Summary: Life is Strange lives up to its title with subtle and not-so-subtle displays of sexual abuse, drugs, bullying, and various emotions young adulthood is full of, but it’s hard to take it seriously. Poor in-depth expression across the board drag down its bright ideas and susceptible characters to the depths of impressionable vulnerability.
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