Life is Strange – Episode 1: Chrysalis Review

Developer: Dontnod Entertainment

Publisher: Square Enix

Release Date: January 30th, 2015

Available On: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation 4. There may be differences between versions.

Up until now Telltale has pretty much been unrivaled in the “narrative episodic games” department. So it’s refreshing to see a new face in the arena. Developer of the ironically forgettable Remember Me, Dontnod Entertainment promises a true competitor into the genre with a heartfelt story about growing up and finding your place. When all is said and done, they may have actually hit their mark.

In Chrysalis you’ll be playing as Max Caulfield, an 18 year old girl who is going to a private high school to further her education in photography. After witnessing a murder in the school’s bathroom Max discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. Using this power she saves the girl, who turns out to be her long lost best friend Chloe, and they begin to look into the disappearance of a woman named Rachel, who vanished mysteriously six months back. Of course things get more complicated than just that. Chloe’s new stepfather has an obsession with surveillance, a group called the Vortex Club seems to be calling more shots at the school than the actual administrative staff, and Max is having weird dreams of a giant tornado wiping out her home town.

That's a little less "strange" and a little more "tornado"

That’s a little less “strange” and a little more “tornado”

I have to admit to being pretty pleased with how Chrysalis’ story went. Characters felt believable and entertaining enough to make you want to see what happens to them as the game advances, and both the voice acting and the writing are good enough to keep you invested. I never felt any one character stood out as terrible or problematic, and I do want to see more of the cast of Life is Strange which is probably the best thing an episodic game can hope for. That said, I do hope the story picks up a little. Life is Strange is clearly aiming to be a slow burn, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, near the end I was really hoping there would be some form of action involved in the game.

Actually, without any action, Life is Strange had to find other ways to input game play besides the quick time events that Telltale loved to use so much. For this they have Max’s ability to rewind time and use it both for dialogue options and to solve small puzzles. Like most of the story based games what you say matters and it will effect how Max’s relationships with other characters go and how story notes will play out. Give a response and don’t like what Max was told? Well back time up a bit and try it again. Max can also use this against characters: Get one guy to give you some vital information, then back time up and use it to appear like you knew the answer ahead of time. As for puzzles, they’re small and not very difficult, but it’s fun to use Max’s time reversing powers to help her do things like make a mess of a rich girl’s clothes so she can get her out of the way, or to save the life of the girl in the bathroom before she gets shot.

Life is strange, and also a little douchey

Life is strange, and also a little douchey

Chrysalis is a good start to what I’m hoping will be a very interesting and different series from what Telltale is currently offering. Without the action to fall back on, Life is Strange needs to try something different and it does this with its time reversal mechanics. Yet even more than that: Life is Strange has some interesting story and characters and I feel like Chrysalis is only going to be the start to what may be one of the more memorable experiences of 2015.

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