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Niche Plays: Life is Strange

My love for Telltale Games is no secret (see elsewhere on this blog) but a new contender has entered the arena of tailored story based games.

Life is Strange takes the same fundamental gameplay as the Telltales series', it even follows the usual 5 episode format and presents you with ethically grey decisions popularised by The Walking Dead. Only, this new take on the genre is like a breath of fresh air, a completely new game engine, an individual art style, a realistic setting and a completely fresh original  IP rather than a licensed property. Developers DONTNOD even bring some of the time manipulation shenanigans from their previous game, "Remember Me". Starting the game displays a familiar message for anyone that has played one of the Telltale series, "the game will adapt to your choices" etc. only this time your decisions are said to have consequences in the past, present and future. It takes a while to get your head round this concept, but it adds more weight to each decision. Later episodes even have a Steins;Gate flavour, but make of that what you will.

A different developer along with the unknowns of the time manipulation meant I had no idea what was going to happen or to what degree my choices would matter, whereas Telltale have fallen into a bit of a pattern (more on that elsewhere). The extra gameplay mechanics are pretty creative but the game also takes inspiration the roots of Telltale themselves, having a number of sections reminiscent of classic Point and Click games that seem to have been phased out of Telltale's own adventures.

Life is Strange also has a beautiful soundtrack, it's one area that Telltale are always improving on too. The music may be a bit mellow and emotional for me to listen to by itself but it's a great audio backdrop to the events in game.

It's hard not to constantly compare this series to the ones created by Telltale, but it can be enjoyed purely on its own merits. It will appeal to people that appreciate the slow-burn, story driven games even if you've never had dreams of being a girl at college. DONTNOD have done a great job at their first game in this genre and even made some nice innovations, I'd like to see what else they can do with another series but they seem to introduce some innovative ideas to a genre and then move on. Remember Me had memory manipulation puzzles and a unique combo system, Life is Strange is a new take on Telltale's formula and their next game Vampyr (pronounced with suitable gravitas) is an action RPG where your choice to feed on people can have wide consequences.

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