Game Review | Life is Strange | Season 1, Episode 1 | "Chrysalis"
Episode Summary: Max Caulfield, student at Blackwell Academy in Arcadia Bay, Oregon, discovers she can rewind time before reuniting with her old best friend, Chloe Price. The pair set out to find out more about the disappearance of Rachel Amber, the harassment of Kate Marsh and the drug schemes of Nathan Prescott, but their friendship is put to the test as Max debates whether to reveal her rewind power. (Life is Strange Wiki)
In Life is Strange, you play as Max Caulfield, an eighteen year old student who has returned to her childhood hometown to attend a prestigious academy where she hopes to learn from a famous photographer and maybe become the same herself one day.
However, the game starts with Max experiencing a vision of a storm destroying her hometown only to wake up in the middle of a class. Shaking the vision off as a dream, she soon discovers that she has the power to rewind time and uses her newfound abilities to prevent a murder, the story spinning off in multiple directions from there.
‘Part Ones’ are always a problem as there’s a lot of scene-setting, world building, exposition and obviously all the characters to introduce, as well as any gameplay mechanics the game lets the player make use of, all of which Life is Strange does to varying degrees of success.
As a result, nothing of any real note happens in “Chrysalis” other than what is required to set up what is presumably to come in the remaining episodes and to establish that something bad will happen soon unless Max can prevent it, which helps to raise the stakes nicely.
I don’t know how well this sense of urgency worked for people who had to wait months between new episodes though!
The game looks nice enough for an episodic adventure title, which aren’t usually graphical powerhouses anyway, and the lighting effects are very pretty, certainly helping with setting the atmosphere for the small seaside town of Arcadia Bay where the game is set.
The voice-acting is also well done, with every role cast well and the performances certainly help bring the characters to life, even if the characters themselves are annoying – which most of them appear to be so far. More on that later.
As for the gameplay side of things, Life is Strange tends to follow the modern adventure game staple of wandering around, interacting with various objects and bits of scenery and having conversations with people until you eventually find whatever triggers the plot to move forward.
There aren’t really any puzzles per se in Episode 1, other than a couple of occasions where you have to make use of Max’s time-warping abilities in a certain order to get the correct result, although there is one point where you can actually fail one of the ‘puzzles’ and the game still continues, which I thought was a nice touch.
The main issues I had with “Chrysalis” was the couple of occasions where what you needed to do in order to progress wasn’t just vague, it seemed to almost be deliberately obscure to add a layer of artificial difficulty and lengthen the game to stretch it out a little.
Also, I know the majority of the characters are teenagers so this may be expected to a degree, but holy crap can they be insufferable at times! Now this may be intentional to try and get across the characters’ relative youth and inexperience, but occasionally it does veer into stereotyping and comes close to feeling like a parody.
“Chrysalis” is still a strong enough start for me that I wanted to keep playing, although I did find myself hoping that we were going to get to see more depth and nuance to the characters because the story isn't there to make up for irritating teens just yet.