Life Is Strange Episode 4 Review: Dark Room, Indeed


Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher: Square Enix

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

Release Date: July 28

This review of “Life is Strange Episode 4″ will remain plot-light and spoiler-free. However, it will make passing remarks at certain events of Episode 1Episode 2 and Episode 3, so please make sure to play through the game’s debut before reading this review!

As Life Is Strange starts to answer all its outstanding storyline questions, players are put in a weird situation. The complex intricacies of quantum mechanics and time jumping theories are central to the story, yet it’s the interpersonal drama taking place that molds our characters’ lives. Arcadia Bay (nay, the world) as we know it is going belly-up, yet Max and Chloe are faced with the very real threat of the unknown party involved with the disappearance of Rachel Amber. It’s this dichotomy that throws the player for a loop, and at times, it’s not to their benefit.

Just when you think Max finally has a check to keep her powers in balance, in comes the plot armor that magics away meaningful conflict.

Life Is Strange Episode 4, “Dark Room,” picks up immediately after we see the “consequences” of Max’s newfound time-travelling ability. Where she had previously jumped back and forth without effort or worry, we know see that those she cares the most for are possibly put in harm’s way as a sacrifice to correcting the mistakes of the past. It’s the kind of bold move coming right as momentum shifts in the storytelling from world and character-building to paying off, thematically. When executed correctly, it keeps the pace of the game flowing.

Unfortunately, this dramatic turn of events is dropped like a sack of potatoes almost immediately. I’m not sure what it is with graphic adventure games these days being afraid to adding finality or conclusiveness to small portions of protagonists’ story threads before the finale, but it rears its ugly head in this episode of Life Is Strange. Just when you think Max finally has a check to keep her powers in balance, in comes the plot armor that magics away meaningful conflict. Any tension accumulated while playing is instantly deflated to the disservice of the story.

“Dark Room,” like its namesake, sees the focal point of the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber…develop.

It’s a series-long problem that probably won’t be addressed, most likely because the ability to reverse time is hardwired into both the story and gameplay mechanics. Life Is Strange blossoms when Max manipulates time as a means of overcoming puzzles and challenges. It adds a literal new dimension to level design, where set pieces in a setting need to be accounted for both forward and backward in time. Furthermore, items acquired during these processes stay with Max, setting up for challenges that balance logic and item management to advance the story. No other can really achieve that without copying this game’s motifs, making it truly unique here.

That gameplay holds the brunt of responsibility for this episode of Life Is Strange, as an uneven pacing is made up for with intriguing logic puzzle segments. There will always be an end-point to the plot, but your choices from previous episodes do weight against future gameplay options, including how to engage with Frank near the beach. Better yet, the options provided to you allow for interesting choices of where the story goes, where an aggressive standpoint varies greatly from a place of passivity. The story moves along regardless, although it does change the perspectives of the characters involved. It’s up to the player to shift their stories, too.

“Dark Room,” like its namesake, sees the focal point of the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Amber…develop. What we experience in Life Is Strange that we don’t get to see much of in other adventure games; multi-episodic puzzle solving. The process of gathering the clues takes time, but it is here where Max and Chloe finally start to look at the big picture like small-town detectives. DontNod doesn’t baby its audience, either, framing the narrative to set up an answer that just takes some rearranging to discover. The journey has lied in the adventure, and it is there where it continues to thrive.

This episode, naturally, takes the story towards some dark places, with Life Is Strange handling some supremely harrowing events in quick succession. It’s a shame that the game takes a hell of a long time to get to those events, with a running time that almost doubles any episode prior. Furthermore, what interesting story branches to experience are disrupted by a shaky script, with DontNod openly winking to the audience about their transgressions. Sorry, but lampshading “hella” as a terribly outdated term, while still using it to prop up a character’s basic speech pattern, won’t get you off the hook.


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Last episode’s “Chaos Theory” saw the series take a leap into the unexpected, leaving us with questions we could not wait longer to have answered. Life Is Strange ends its penultimate episode doing the inverse, leaving our protagonists in plot limbo. We now know mostly what we “needed” to know all along, with some very telling signs as early as Episode 1 being confirmed. Reaching one premature cliffhanger while capping off another mystery altogether results in a muted stopping point, grinding momentum to a halt. The journey through gameplay has been refreshing thus far, if only for the moments of excitement on the bookends of the trip.

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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