Life Is Strange: Episode 1 review

Life is Strange Basement 1

Max Caulfield is a teenage girl who has landed a scholarship to her dream school.

Her social anxieties and habitual over-thinking are interrupted by the discovery that she can travel a few minutes back in time, a talent that helps her prevent a shooting and soon leads towards even more sinister mysteries. From Dontnod, makers of the flawed but promising Remember Me, Life Is Strange is a game about decision and consequence. As in real life, people remember what you’ve done or failed to do for them and modify their behaviour towards you as a result. However, unlike reality, a butterfly icon pops up to let you know you’ve done something with far-reaching implications, which you’re free to undo with a bit of judicious time travel. Like fellow offbeat French-made adventures Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, this goes out of its way to create an interactive story about believable people. But Life Is Strange is more successful, its slow-burning plot giving characters room to shine by not feeling the need to insert continual, ludicrous M Night Shyamalan-esque twists.

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The Escapists doesn’t concern itself with how your character came by a custodial sentence, it only cares about how he absconds. Presented in retro 8-bit style and featuring chunky analogue sound effects, your job is to observe guards’ routines, collect useful things and build relationships with warders and other prisoners before breaking out. Each jail has its own schedule and choosing to ignore that programme can land you a beating from guards or a spell in solitary, but the rest of the time is yours to be spent doing favours for other prisoners, working out at the gym to increase your power and speed, or using computers to make you more intelligent. You will also be amassing knowledge and useful materials to help with your escape attempt, which could involve anything from moulding a key from melted plastic to secretly digging your way out with pieces of cutlery. Its minimal tutorial leaves you to make your own mistakes, a laudable intent that’s undermined by fiddly controls and the demand for perfect timing when you finally make your bid for freedom.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nick Gillett, for The Guardian on Saturday 14th February 2015 09.00 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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