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Life is Strange review: Time-traveling teenage-girl-simulator is one of 2015's most poignant games

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 27, 2015
Girls just wanna have fun. And break into swimming pools and solve a mystery and occasionally time travel.

Bottom line

After wrapping each episode of Life is Strange, a bar of text would crawl across the screen saying “The next episode is out now!” which seemed a bit redundant since I’d already obtained the whole game. But after finishing Episode Five, the line changed to something like (paraphrasing from my potentially off-base memory) “If any of these themes resonated, let us know.”

The themes. Not the time travel. Not the Rachel Amber plot. It’s clear that developer Dontnod understands that what makes Life is Strange special is Max and her experience as a teenager. And the experiences of the other kids in her life—their insecurities, their private confessions, their feelings of love and betrayal and loneliness and murderous rage. It’s a cacophony of emotion, a time where the days pass slowly and each is either the best day of your life or the end of the world.

At least, that’s Dontnod’s idealized fiction of being a teenager.

The rest—what we’d I guess call the “main story”—is forgettable. What I’m left with now, what I’ll return to when I think of Life is Strange, is the small(er) moments: Fond memories of Blackwell, of watering my plant or watching Blade Runner with a friend or laying in bed listening to Bright Eyes.

Normality can be poignant. Low stakes can feel high, given the correct context. Escapism is optional. This is Life is Strange’s legacy, regardless of whether it always followed through.

 

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