Life is Strange Episode 1: Chrysalis Review

When the first episode of Life is Strange launched in January last year, I was probably busy catching up on some 2014 games I missed. Then as each subsequent episode came out and buzz around the game began to grow, it's visibility on my "must-play" radar escalated in kind but I still never got around to it. But fittingly, during these early days in 2016, I can finally catch up on it. I'm going to try to play through the whole game this week with daily impressions on each episode and then maybe a final full review on the whole piece.

For those unfamiliar with the premise of Life is Strange, you play through this narrative-driven adventure game as Max Caulfield, a student at an elite preparatory school in a fictional Oregon town with a passion for photography. Episode 1, aptly titled Chrysalis, begins with her witnessing an traumatic incident and discovering she can rewind time and change the outcome of the event.

Most of the first episode is focused on introducing the cast of characters. With only a couple hours invested so far, it would seem that many of them check off very specific trope characters from coming-of-age stories (mean girl, preppy rich kid, rebel, cool young teacher, douchey step-dad, etc.). But now that this groundwork has been laid, I look forward to possibility of fleshing out these characters over the course of the next four episodes.

As far as gameplay goes, Life is Strange is definitely doing a lot with the adventure genre staple of walking around an environment and looking at a ton of objects to hear Max's thoughts on the small details of her world. This is a great way to give me a better sense of things but also breaks up the pacing of the main thrust of the story.

The element that helps this game stand out from something like a Telltale game is the ability to rewind time. So far this has been implemented in three notable ways. The first is through environmental storytelling puzzles where you might need to witness the events that play out, then rewind time and make some adjustments so you'll get your desired outcome to move the story forward. The second is through your standard dialogue options where you might get a crucial piece of information that you can then rewind time to use in the conversation. Lastly, when you come to those classic either/or scenarios, the rewind option allows you to test out how each scenario plays out before you move on with the game. Admittedly, you're only going to see the short term result of your choice and I'm sure a lot of these choices will have varying degrees of weight in the coming chapters but it's nice to be able to at least see both ways of how these initial scenes play out.

Lastly, I wanted to touch briefly on the soundtrack, as I find it really enhances the tone of the game. As the opening credits roll and you explore the school hallway, Max listens to some music with her earbuds and it felt very much like a Zach Braff movie (a la Garden State). I look forward to seeing how music continues to play a factor in setting the mood of the game.