Life Is Strange ReviewPrice:
PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS3, X360
Life Is Strange has emerged as one of this year's biggest surprises. With five episodes drip-fed throughout 2015, DontNod's time-travelling tale of teenage angst and towering tornados has gradually grown into something of a critical darling. The final episode - Polarized - landed earlier this week, making now the opportune time to review the series as a whole. It isn't always the smoothest of narrative rides, with the final episode in particular struggling to bring together all the different story threads. But Life Is Strange remains a captivating experience that is equal parts harrowing and heart-warming.
Life Is Strange has you assume control of Max Caulfield, a shy yet talented student photographer who returns to her hometown of Arcadia Bay to study at the prestigious Blackwell Academy. During one of her classes, Max has a vivid premonition about a tornado that will destroy the town in just a few days, after which she discovers she has acquired the ability to reverse time.
As Max explores this strange new talent, she discovers she can have a huge influence on the people around her, going backward time and again until she tailors as situation exactly how she wants it. What's more, Max's first attempt to do this reunites her childhood friend Chloe Price, and the two set about searching for Chloe's missing friend Rachel Amber, who disappeared in the days prior to Max's arrival.
A missing girl in a small town haunted by supernatural goings on, explored through the experiences of two close friends. Life Is Strange doesn't exactly hide its Lynchian influences. Indeed, Arcadia Bay is strongly reminiscent of Lynch's fictional town of Twin Peaks, albeit with a seaside theme as opposed to Twin Peaks' woodland vibe. Nevertheless, many of the game's locales, particularly the Two Whales diner, complete with wood-panelled jukebox and padded sitting booths, act as a clear homage to Lynch's landmark TV series.
Despite the obvious nature of the comparison, it's a credit to DontNod's work that Life Is Strange never feels like it's standing in Lynch's shadow. This is mainly down to the strength of Life Is Strange's characters, and the strength of its own sense of place. Arcadia Bay's inhabitants are complex, believable individuals, nuanced layers of nice and nasty. These include Victoria, a bitchy, spoiled teen queen who hides her insecurities beneath a mask of superiority, and snooping security guard David, whose experiences in the army eat away at his fundamentally decent personality like a cancer, leaving him bitter and paranoid.
At the centre of this social network is the relationship between Max and Chloe, which gradually warms throughout the series, occasionally bursting with angry sparks. After the death of Chloe's father, Max left Arcadia Bay for several years, and failed to keep in contact with her during the most difficult time of her life. Because of this and various other factors, Chloe is terrified of being betrayed and abandoned by those close to her, and so deliberately avoids any emotional intimacy by being prickly and rebellious. Max, meanwhile, feels deep guilt for her inaction during her absence, and feels a strong desire to make up for those lost years.