Life is Strange Episode 4: Dark Room Review

As someone who has experienced and studied a ton of different stories over the years in the form of television, film, theatre, literature, and video games, one of the greatest joys is when I come across a story that surprises me. And the end of Episode 4 of Life is Strange excelled at that. Minor spoilers to follow but I'll avoid the episodes big climax.

When we last left off, Max had stumbled into an alternate reality where her actions in the past had drastically changed the course of history. As teased at the end of that episode, we quickly discover that in saving the life of Chloe's father five years ago, Max only wound up trading one tragedy for another, even darker one. And it isn't long before she makes her way back to the past to undo her actions and revert the story back to the original timeline.

Now some might argue that this brief stint into an alternate reality amounts to nothing since Max resets it anyway, but I would argue against that line of thinking. With a game and narrative centered around a concept like the butterfly effect, this quick jaunt into the "what might have been" does an excellent job highlighting just how much one action can affect the world around it. In particular, I recommend people look through the texts of this alternate timeline to see who "Maxine" is friends with, what people say about her, etc.

There is at least one notable constant between both timelines though: the disappearance of Rachel Amber. So it makes perfect sense that you dive back into that investigation once Max resets the timeline. And this was where we stumbled across one of my favorite puzzles of the game. In trying to figure out where to go next, you and Chloe pin up all of your clues on a pin board (a la The Wire or pretty much any detective story with a lot of pieces). And then the game trusts that you're smart enough to figure it out. And much like The Witness earlier this month. I absolutely relished the feeling of solving the puzzle before me.

From there, Max and Chloe discover much more than they bargained for surrounding the mystery of Rachel's whereabouts and wind up at the "End of the World" party being thrown at school. If I took issue with anything in this episode, it was actually this party, which is basically somehow a school-endorsed rave of course rife with drugs and alcohol. I don't buy the school proceeding to allow such a party a mere couple of days after a girl jumped/attempted to jump off the school roof for the cyber bullying directly related to the previous party thrown by this club.

But compared to the rest of roller coaster this episode takes you on, that minor issue is certainly a fair trade off.