Yesterday, I kicked off my belated review of Life is Strange. Rather than tackle this entire story in one go (like I did with Telltale's Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands), I'm approaching this one episodically. Then when the whole story is wrapped up, I'll likely put together a cumulative review as well. So yesterday looked at the initial chapter and today, I'm looking at Episode 2, titled Out of Time. Minor spoilers ahead as this review will touch on a couple of the spoiler-esque plot points of the episode.
While the thrust of the main narrative is obviously Max and how she is trying to grasp her new abilities, one of the most impactful side stories of the game so far as involved Kate Marsh, the good Christian girl who wound up kissing a lot of boys at a party in a video that has gone viral around school. At 30, I was in high school a few years before cyber-bullying became a prominent thing. Facebook didn't hit until I was in college but my friends and I weren't even on Myspace in high school. I've read some of the horror stories and see the idea portrayed in various television shows but this was the first instance where I've ever experienced it in a game.
Kate is clearly distraught over this perception of her as a slut because she kissed a lot of boys. I desperately wanted to scream at the television, "It gets better! None of this will matter in a couple years! Don't let high school stupidity get you down." Max, of course, doesn't have my middle-aged (oh my god, am I really middle-aged now?) perspective to build from so those options of course weren't available to me. Instead I did my best to calm her down. After a busy day of proving your powers to Chloe, the climax of this chapter of the story involves Kate jumping off the dorm. Naturally you rewind time but the game uses this opportunity to introduce the concept that your powers have limits. On the rooftop with her, Max realizes that her powers are drained so you're only going to have one shot to talk Kate down off the ledge.
This stressed me out more than probably any boss fight in the past few years.
It is an incredibly powerful storytelling tactic. The entire chapter has been filled with you and Chloe dicking around with your powers for fun and a laugh. So when the developers take your power away at this critical moment, you're left thinking what the character is most likely thinking in the back of her head: "if only I hadn't wasted it earlier showing off for Chloe..."
This also touches upon another one of the great facets of this episode's storytelling: a theory I call "the disarming power of comedy." Basically the theory goes that by getting your audience laughing, when you hit them with a dramatic beat, it hits them that much harder. I always point to Joss Whedon as a master of this artform. He excels at getting you to love a character through relatable quirks and humor and then rips your heart out by killing them. In that same vein, by spending the first bit of this episode showing off to Chloe at her mother's diner, filled with laughter and joking, the hard-hitting moments later in the episode are a bigger gut punch by comparison.
In conclusion, I think Episode 2 knocked it out of the park in terms of powerful narrative moments and I'm looking even more forward to see what comes next.