Perhaps most reminiscent of 2013’s indie hit Gone Home, Dontnod’s Life Is Strange is an episodic, narrative-focused drama, centering around a missing teenage girl and set in the Pacific Northwest. In the vein of Telltale Games’ popular adventure games, Dontnod is bringing Life Is Strange to market in the form of five self-contained episodes, each of which will release roughly six weeks apart. The first episode was released today on Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Life Is Strange is a third-person graphic adventure which features quite a bit of social interplay between characters. The game’s protagonist, Maxine Caulfield, returns to her small Oregon hometown after a five-year absence, to find her rebellious friend Chloe Price rather disturbed about the disappearance of a girlfriend. Scenes play out in teenage bedrooms, parks, and high schools, with plenty of heartfelt of dialogue.
Oh, and there’s one particularly special feature: The ability to rewind time lets you go back and redo any action between checkpoints. The choices you make will alter and affect the story both short- and long-term consequences; essentially, time travel is used to learn from the future, then to go back and affect the present.
Dontnod’s only previous game was the 2013 Capcom-published action title Remember Me, which struck a chord with gamers for its beautiful environments and science-fiction narrative. While the subject matter and setting is clearly different this time around, the two titles share much in common. As with Remember Me, for instance, Life Is Strange features a female lead character, with gorgeous environments and an incredibly slick presentation.
Though the game is being published by Square Enix, a large and renowned Japanese game publisher, Life Is Strange has the look and feel of an indie title. It places a heavy emphasis on thematic ideas – including a sense of tension around the presence of digital devices and social media, with characters yearning for a simpler past. It’s a story about everyday life in a small town, and the problems of unemployment, alcoholism, social bullying, and violence.
With an expected playtime of roughly one-and-a-half to two hours, the first episode features a compelling story, indie folk-inspired soundtrack, realistic dialogue, and impressively interactive open environments certainly appear to be something different. Life certainly is strange, and video games can be, too.