Critical Play: Mystery

Life is Strange - Apps on Google Play

I played Life is Strange, created by Dontnod Entertainment, on my Mac. A single player plays against the game, and a cool mechanic is that they can rewind time at certain points to re-do a decision or event. The objective of the game is to explore areas of Arcadia Bay as the main character, Max, lives her life and solve some puzzles to figure out the mystery of what happened to Rachel. 

The primary form of fun the game intends is narrative. It succeeds at immersing the player in an engaging story full of twists and turns. At first, the mystery element is more in the background – you see flyers about Rachel’s disappearance and hear characters comment about it. The main focus is on reuniting with Max’s childhood best friend, Chloe, and getting acquainted with other main figures in the town, like the Prescotts. As Max gets to know Chloe, who was friends with Rachel, she gets more invested in figuring out what happened to her. I really enjoyed the many threads and relationships Max has: to Kate, to her teacher Mr. Jefferson, to Chloe’s stepfather. 

The time-rewinding mechanic supports the mystery by allowing you gain information that otherwise would have led you into danger. Since you can rewind time (although the game dictates when this is possible), you can make a decision, learn from that decision, then rewind and revise the decision. Being able to interact with the world around you (open lockers, read flyers, overhear conversations) also further immerses the player. However, you don’t have to interact with everything, so you can study the environment as much as you want to. You can also just focus on progressing through the story, as the game leads you to the important objects and actions. I liked how the game uses Max’s thoughts to guide the player towards certain actions. Sometimes I would get stuck and not know what to do next, and the game detected it and had Max say something that functioned as a hint. 

A flaw of the game is that the dialogue feels written by adults who don’t know how American teens talk. That turned me off quite a bit in the earlier episodes; it was a bit hard to sit through. I also feel that I was supposed to like Chloe at least a little bit, but truthfully I couldn’t really stand her. Making Chloe a more likable and charismatic character would have made me more invested in the story and enjoy the time spent with her more. It also would have made certain decisions more emotionally difficult and impactful. 

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