Life is Strange: Episode 2 Review (PC)

(This is a tentative review critiquing an ongoing series. As such, this review will contain no final score, but an individual critique and summary that is solely based on the experience of  the episode. This game’s overall critique is subject to change in other episode reviews and will be determined after the final installment.)

(This review of Life is Strange: Episode 2 — Out of Time is spoiler free.)

When we last left Max Caulfield, your average teenage girl with the ability to rewind time, she had been reunited with her old friend Chloe after a rather sudden and violent encounter. Episode 1 laid the groundwork for this indie film inspired sci-fi adventure brilliantly, establishing its premise, characters and settings with finesse. Though there were a few bumps in the road in terms of voice acting and characterization, Life is Strange became the game to look out for in the coming months. And so, I arrived at Episode 2, cleverly titled “Out of Time”,  ready to explore Arcadia Bay once again and uncover the mystery behind it’s bizarre goings-on.

Drinking black coffee, like a true hipster.

Drinking black coffee, like a true hipster.

First up, Episode 2 does an excellent job as a bridge between the introduction and the climax; the escalation of tension is on point for most of the episode. Max’s relationships are starting to become more fleshed out as we learn more about each character, their lives and how they fit more clearly into the grand scheme of imminent destruction — character perceptions are ever changing. Twists and turns rear their heads from time to time, but the strongest aspect of Life is Strange so far is its ability to keep the suspense at a high in terms of its major plot beats. Each decision, no matter how small, is starting to affect the game and it clearly shows; but that’s the only thing that’s clear about the past and present choices — the grey morality of whether to ignore this one individual or another is poignant throughout. It all culminates at a certain miniature climax that made it apparent that this was a point of no return, no matter how far I could travel back in time. Tension, fear, regret and a robust sense of hesitation are all present in some way or another in the episode, making Episode 2 a fantastic continuation of the narrative.

The brutality of a teenager is a scary thing.

The brutality of a teenager is a scary thing.

But there’s a reason I say for most of the episode, and that’s because Episode 2 tends to drag at certain points. Life is Strange has currently shown it likes to exist in extremes. Most of the time, the story is kept at a relatively intense emotional state, but that comes with the other side of the proverbial coin. There are lumbering portions of Episode 2 that feel as if Dontnod Entertainment is trying to remind the player that this is a video game and as such, it must have puzzles and periods of exploration. That’s all fine, except it’s in trying to shoehorn these moments that Life is Strange comes to a screeching halt; the excitement of each discovery is suddenly dulled by remedial tasks, including collecting bottles or meandering around the streets of Arcadia Bay. While a story ebbs and flows in action and information, these interruptions are incredibly abrupt.

Twin Whales huh... I wonder what other Northwestern town has a landmark with two things in its name...

Twin Whales huh… I wonder what other Northwestern town has a landmark with two things in its name…

Since Life is Strange is a character driven narrative experience, the writing and voice acting are paramount to its success. Though this is where a lot of the criticism towards this game comes from, it should be made clear that while theses elements are not amazing, they’re nowhere near abysmal or even average. Many reviewers have made this component the crux of their reviews, but Life is Strange’s dialogue and voice acting are enjoyable.

When “Out of Time” played its closing montage, giving me a chance to review, contemplate and concede to my own actions and regrets, I felt a wave of crashing emotions and curiosity. I’m unable to exactly pinpoint whether this episode or the previous one are my current favorite, I will say they both deliver powerful experiences. It looks as if Life is Strange is on track to being one of the most surprising, suspenseful titles of 2015.

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