Opening with a therapy session, as all good stories do, Life Is Strange: True Colors drops you into the life of Alex Chen. Alex has spent many years in the foster care system, until she was found by her older brother Gabe and invited to Haven Springs, Colorado to live with him. Everything seems grand with the world and everyone in the town adores you, until a sudden death changes everything for Alex, and for the quiet little mountain town.
This event becomes the driving force of the narrative as Alex seeks to uncover the mysteries of the little town and its denizens to get to the truth. Most of this sees you exploring Haven Springs, interacting with various objects and chatting with the locals. You will quickly learn the faces and places of Haven Springs as you spend more time there, from the flower shop ran by the kindly Eleanor to the local record store that is awesome enough to have a working radio station in it.
But it isn’t just chatting and walking, oh no. As you’re exploring you’ll notice that Alex can see and feel the emotions around her whether they are being felt by a person directly or as a lingering effect left on an object in the world, letting you hear the thoughts of that individual (or the owner of an object). Most of these will simply help you understand a character better, but some set you up to guide the character in question through emotional turmoil.
This can be something as mundane as using the knowledge of a character’s thoughts to talk with them and help them through it, or even use their thoughts to resolve their problem through further investigation such as finding an object they lost. On occasion though, and usually with major characters, you will enter their mind to work through their problems as they see them. These segments are always fascinating puzzles to solve, with beautiful and sometimes unsettling imagery to really pull you into the experience.
Life Is Strange: True Colors is all about the idea of consequences. Every decision you make in the game has an effect on the overall story and its progression. These choices might not be tied to the main story or even be obvious that a choice is being made, but always have some sort of effect. The important ones are brazen decision points where the gameplay freezes, but talking to everyone in each chapter will grant you the ability to solve a variety of different problems or interact with the world in different, lasting ways.
Beyond this, there are a variety of other activities you can embark on in Haven Springs, should you wish to. The main one is finding the arcade cabinets littered around town. Each of these contains a simple retro video game to play, all of which are hugely entertaining little time sinks. Furthermore, in the main game, the end of each chapter shows not only everything you did (against other players no less), but also shows you anything you missed, allowing you to return to those chapters and find the events that you overlooked. That’s right, this might be a single release, but there’s still a similar episodic structure to the story through the game’s narrative with these chapters, giving you several points where you can stop and digest the latest twists and turns in the tale. Or you can just binge it like the Netflix glutton that you are.
This game is Beautiful with a capital “B”. Life Is Strange: True Colors takes on the stylised realism of the previous games in the series, but gives it a gorgeous high fidelity sheen that they could only dream of. Haven Springs is picturesque and so intricately imagined that you could easily believe it exists. The characters themselves have less attention to detail than the town itself, but each is visually distinctive, fits perfectly within this setting and has incredible voice acting.
Just make sure you sit and appreciate the town when you have the moments to do so. You get a small monologue from Alex about the current events, and can soak in the gorgeous scenery and gentle acoustic music for a moment. These are some of the most visually arresting moments, playing out like a montage in an indie film, and really draw you into the world. Also, these segments are genuinely serene and act as a calming element in a game that can be very emotional at points.
Another element shared with the series is the use of music as a drive of the narrative. The record store in Haven Springs is a key location and it lets you know early on that this is an important place for all of the main characters. Alex herself plays the guitar, with a breath-taking song revealing this fact. The soundtrack is absolutely stellar, with a definite indie sensibility to it, and each and every song used is close to perfect.
What this story tells is one of loss and perseverance. During True Colors, you get to know all of the characters of Haven Springs, and all of the emotional turmoil and secrets of that cast. The weight of the narrative is handled well, with some very apt depictions of how these emotions feel when you have them. The gameplay is simple but effective, and the puzzles when trying to help a character are immensely satisfying, if a little sad, to resolve.