Life is Strange – Episode 2
Following on from the first chapter, episode two picks up the next morning with the player battling that great enemy of mankind: the snooze button.
Having just prophesized the upcoming obliteration of Arcadia Bay, our selfie-obsessed timelord spent her night hitting the books in an attempt to understand her new power. As Max herself notes though, even superheroes need to shower so the player’s first mission is to guide her to her morning ablutions.
It’s a slow start but as the opening of an episode it works. By reading her texts, interacting with her belongings and chatting with residents idling in the dorm hallway the player is given a fairly comprehensive refresher on Max’s previous decisions and some of their effects on her friends and co-eds. Much of episode two continues at this easygoing pace, which isn’t strictly a complaint as Max offers support to a bullied friend, hangs out with Chloe, and explores her school in the time leading up to class.
Everything continues to be well written and enjoyable (aside from a couple of hair-raising moments with Chloe), and episode two encourages players to get comfortable. This may cause some people to say “That was the big moment from episode one’s stinger? What a gyp!”, as they let their collective guards down.
Which was likely the intent.
It’s impossible to talk about the end of this episode without spoilers, but suffice to say it carries serious weight. Events conspire to push Max to find new dimensions to her power, and when she is called upon to make a life-and-death decision, leaves her powerless. After cruising easily through so much of the game players can quickly find themselves sweating buckets and wishing they’d paid closer attention.
Life is Strange is keen to start showing the effects of player actions so coasting is not advised.
Although the twist in the tale is impressive, episode two is not without flaws. The bottle fetch-quest in the junk-yard – Chloe’s home away from home – serves a clear function in encouraging the player to learn things about Chloe through exploration. This is a reasonable way of conveying important information by showing and not telling – which is always good. However, hiding the last bottle in a stack of tires and having Max repeatedly claim that there should be one where people have parties is just a special kind of poor design.
Speaking of which, it seems the uncanny lip-syncing from the first episode is here to stay – which is a shame because it’s a minor graphical glitch that the game will long be remembered for.
Despite these hiccups episode two is a solid continuation in the series. Its dramatic twist and developing mysteries serve to whet the appetite for the next instalment – Chaos Theory – which landed sometime in May.