Life is strange is narrative mystery game developed by Dontnod Entertainment, Square Enix, Deck Nine, Feral Interactive, and Black Wing Foundation. I was able to play the first episode on steam for free! The premise of the game is to essentially follow a teenager through their life where you are given options to make different decisions (which I assume lead to different outcomes). I was only able to play this game for around an hour, so I wasn’t able to really access every single decision’s possible outcome, however, the game felt like basically watching a movie, and being able to make different alterations to the plot as you see fit.
The target audience for this game would definitely be other teenagers or maybe early college students. A mature audience is definitely needed to really enjoy this game as some of the topics discussed are extremely heavy, like alcoholism, addiction, and depression. Furthermore, due to the heavy narrative aspect of this game, this game seems to be catered to a more relaxed gamer, who is focused on learning a story, enjoys passive gameplay, and games that emulate t.v shows as most of this game felt like watching a movie and reacting.
One of the most striking elements of this game for me was the graphics. Typically I am a player who finds it extremely difficult to stay engaged in a narrative-focused game, however, due to the graphics being pretty realistic and extremely detailed, I felt super immersed in the game, and to my surprise actually enjoyed this narrative-based game as it felt like watching T.V. The formal element that is exclusively focused on in this game is decision-making. Almost the entirety of the gameplay experience is built upon the choices you make in response to the narrative being told. You get to… live life and thus make different decisions that guide the story. The rules are pretty arbitrary, in that the only explicit rule is that you must pick one of the selected options to respond to dialogue in order to process throughout the game. Other than that, there seem to be no rules, yet at the same time, there isn’t really much you can do besides… watch.
Example of decisions you’re able to make
The type of fun that this game definitely capitalized on is Discovery and Narrative. Much of the game is built upon telling you a story, and being interested in the premise of the story is crucial for an engaging gameplay experience and there is literally nothing else to do in the game. At the same time which you are uncovering the story, you are also engaging in a discovery kind of fun as you are being able to learn about the town you are living in, the friends you meet, and the environment overall (the house, the places you go, etc).
Given that the game revolves around a pre-determined story, it’s really difficult to have a particular moment of epic fails or success, as you’re essentially just going with the flow. I think this is actually something that life does strange does really well, as it’s pretty reflective of life, no decision is necessary “wrong” but it does have its own repercussions and the story accounts for that. If I were to add things to Life Is Strange, I’d definitely include more of a time pressure. The game seems to be focused on essentially embodying going through life and navigating difficult decisions, and I feel like oftentimes, in real life those decisions are time-sensitive. Thus, maybe applying time pressure for options to be pressed or for reactions to unfold would help make the game feel more realistic and raise the stakes of gameplay. This could be an optional feature so those who like to just sit back are still allotted that feature.