Life Is Strange Episode 2 Review: Jigsaw Falling Into Place


Developer: Dontnod

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: PC (Version Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360

Release Date: March 24th

This review of “Life is Strange Episode 2” will remain plot-light and spoiler-free. However, it will make passing remarks at certain events of Episode 1, so please make sure to play through the game’s debut before reading this review!

In a gaming universe where a character has an ultimate power or set of skills that separates themselves from common humanity, it is up to the creators to forge checks and balances in order for them to remain humble. Things will slowly become dull and uninteresting if there is no threat of personal loss for the hero as their story progresses. My chief concern heading into Episode 2 of Life Is Strange, titled “Out of Time,” was that Max Caulfield’s ability to rewind time would ultimately make her invulnerable to the consequences of her actions. Thankfully, those doubts were wiped with one of the most harrowing scenarios I’ve ever experienced in a choice-based graphic adventure game. Unfortunately, the journey getting to that point was relatively mundane in comparison.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 begins the morning after the events of Episode 1, with Max trying her best to convince her old friend and most trusted confidant, Chloe Price, that she can manipulate the very essence of time. Her trust and support are crucial if Max is to understand just how exactly she is supposed to prevent a hurricane, set to destroy her hometown of Arcadia Bay, at the end of the week. Meanwhile, an illicit video of Max’s friend, Kate Marsh, has been circulating Blackwell Academy, with the entire school aware of her salacious encounters with members of the bourgeoisie Vortex Club, including main antagonist Nathan Prescott. As usual, there is more than meets the eye than what the rumors say.

What I’ve come to realize in the first 5 hours playing through the adventures of Life Is Strange is that Max acts a facilitator of the game’s events. Holding a power unlike any other, it is the happenings of others that keep things interesting. It seems like the wealth of the game’s cast spend most of their concerns pointed elsewhere, injecting Max’s importance only when interacting with others for extended periods of time, or when gameplay decisions need to be made. Their lives are inherently more interesting and complicated due to the fact they must struggle with the realities of life in a struggling rural town.

Life Is Strange has a protagonist problem. For someone with an extraordinary gift, Max is rather pedestrian. One will struggle to describe her as a character without relying on physical descriptions, with “caring” being the strongest example of who she is. Then again, I defy you to name a protagonist in such a game structure that includes moral choices that doesn’t share at least glimmers of this attitude. She is decidedly milquetoast in a sea of assertive, interesting, expressive characters. Perhaps her general timidity is supposed to help the player immerse themselves in an awkward, artsy West-coast town, yet I couldn’t help but care more for those Max is trying to help along the way.

Dontnod were careful to toe the line between pandering and poignant, and they did so to perfection.

The game’s conflicts lie mostly with the town of Arcadia Bay and its untold grim future shared in Max’s visions, yet little direct progress is made to actually solve the problem in Episode 2 of Life Is Strange. Table-setting is an important facet of building a world that has to answer to the strict rules of time travel, but dawdling too long off the beaten path can damage the impact of a story’s climax. Too much time is spent doing uninteresting, non-impactful side quests like collecting bottles (which takes entirely too long), hanging out in diners and making idle chit-chat with schoolmates. Wheels are definitely spinning in the right direction; it’s just that we’re still revving in the same spot as before, if not minimally closer.

That is, until Life Is Strange changes things up in the third act of “Out of Time.” I wasn’t kidding when implying there is a surfeit of wonderful characters and character development outside of our protag, as a good chunk of the story focuses on one character and their misadventures through the horrors of bullying. Dontnod were careful to toe the line between pandering and poignant, and they did so to perfection. Plus, it finally brought the possibility of immediate benefits and consequences to the story, providing our first real sense of urgency. It’s a well the developers need to start tapping into further as things move along.

It doesn’t help that the writing is a dual-edged sword, barbed with rich characterization on one side and hackneyed teenager cliche dialogue on the other.

Max’s involvement in this third act, however, does showcase that her ability to manipulate time is not so cut and dry. New gameplay mechanics are introduced as rules that were once thought sacred and set in stone to be dynamic changes in Max’s powers. Finally, it appears as though Superman has discovered his weakness to Kryptonite, dragging Max back down from her high position of unspoken power. While she may not be as deep a character as others, the writers of Life Is Strange do an excellent job of making her feel weak and vulnerable as a person (even if we know that isn’t true).

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this episode of Life Is Strange is the notion of finality in a world of countless do-overs. There is one scene in which Max’s powers are limited after a fantastically strong demonstration, in which she cannot rewind time momentarily. Depending on her actions, Max has no remedy for a bad or good outcome. Tensions are justifiably high, while more importantly, it serves to show just how dark a game about the lives of high school students can go. Additionally, it adds a new layer of depth within its adventure gameplay mechanics, which should serve to drive high-stakes drama going foward supremely.

Ultimately, as was the case in Episode 1, there is a lot of untapped potential waiting in the wings. It doesn’t help that the writing is a dual-edged sword, barbed with rich characterization on one side and hackneyed teenager cliche dialogue on the other. Furthermore, it appears as though the voice over problems will remain a constant, with little attempts made to properly animate accurate lip syncing. Finally, the voice-acting work itself continues to be hit and miss, with both the protagonist and antagonist being wholly unconvincing in their mannerisms. All the ingredients for a great game are on the table; it’s just a shame that they aren’t being added to the recipe in the correct order.


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“Out of Time,” the second episode of five in Life Is Strange, will be defined by its gripping conclusion that will have fans talking. Unfortunately, the process of getting there is rather uninteresting, with a sense of “vamping for time” to pad the episode’s 120 minute length. Max’s abilities have been pushed to the limit, but exploring the depths of her own character have gone to the wayside in preference for the extensive cast of Arcadia Bay’s citizens. The waif hipster world has effectively been built through wandering off the beaten path, Dontnod; it’s time to get the train back on its tracks!

A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.

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