If the first episode of Life Is Strange was a turbulent journey of discovery for Max, the second is more of an exploration of just what it is that she can do with her new found power. Max is no longer an ordinary college girl, trying to find her place in the world, but rather an extraordinary individual with the ability to rewind and rewrite history.
It’s the morning after the conclusion of the first episode, and as her alarm goes off and she begrudgingly opens her eyes, she is greeted by the sight of the previous night’s frenzied scribbling and hypothesising about her powers. Notes are strewn all around her room, with stacks of DVDs and books related to time travel everywhere. It’s a seemingly impossible amount of research for just one night, but then again, Max has got all the time in the world.
But no sooner has she left her room to go to the shower, and she finds herself embroiled in further tangled webs of mystery. There’s the persistent threads that point back towards the disappearance of Rachel Amber, as Max and Chloe rekindle their friendship, but the trauma which fellow classmate Kate Marsh is going through quickly comes to the fore.
I’m still not sure I made the right decisions while trying to be her friend during a soul destroying point in her life, even with the ability to rewind time and pick a different path. That only presents you with the short term resolution or response, but you can’t see the long term ramifications of your actions.
And it could even be the small things that have a knock on effect. Taking a particular phone call rather than letting it go to voicemail could end up being part of a wedge which drives Max and Chloe apart once more, and as I rewound time, I was torn between the outcomes of so many decisions. It made me resolve to land firmly on Chloe’s side the next time I could, but even doing that will come back to haunt the pair in the future.
It’s not all about making difficult decisions time and again though, and with a secret shared, Chloe and Max are out to have a little bit of fun and see how far her powers can go, albeit with an element of peer pressure. There’s a fun little sequence of showing off how she can “predict” the future, even if the way it’s delivered in gameplay is a little ham fisted, and playing around with altogether more dangerous applications.
But the undercurrent to all of this is that Max is not suddenly all powerful and set to rule the world, and that makes her story even more interesting. There are distinct limits which become more and more apparent and help to add a notable sense of urgency and trepidation as lives hang in the balance.
These points punctuate the rest of the story’s almost lackadaisical pacing, to the extent that on one occasion I genuinely wondered if I was in an odd limbo state and the episode should have already ended. You’re free to explore and root around in the world as you see fit though, and at some points even just sit and enjoy the scenery as Max’s internal monologue reveals some small insights.
Fully exploring the world can be important though, as the episode ends with a break down of all the tracked decisions, both big and small, that you made along the way. It’s very easy to make a decision simply by omission, if you didn’t talk to everyone or explore every nook and cranny.
It does also give you the opportunity to bask in the game’s endlessly gorgeous lighting effects, as the lazy autumnal sun hangs heavily in the sky over Arcadia Bay. Yet, there are the same faux pas made here as in the first episode. Loading in a new scene or area causes the frame rate to judder and jerk as data is loaded, and lip syncing is still practically non-existant, as everyone’s mouth flaps along with the voice acting, and facial expressions switch in an instant – this is something which Dontnod have admitted comes as a consequence of the game’s budget and how it was spent.
Life Is Strange promised to explore mature and realistic themes from the start, and this second episode continues to do so even amidst the sci-fi trappings of time manipulation. Aside from a few miscued points here and there with pacing or the game’s general presentation, this builds upon the first episode and draws you further into its tangled web of mystery.
Version tested: PlayStation 4