Life Is Strange: Out of Time proves that DONTNOD’s new game is worth your time.

Out of Time starts with Max waking up after a long day of researching her time travel skills, and asking you to basically dwell around her dorm room and prepare […]

Out of Time starts with Max waking up after a long day of researching her time travel skills, and asking you to basically dwell around her dorm room and prepare for shower. That tone never goes away.

One of the most fascinating things about Life is Strange is that it’s so clearly bigger than the sum of its parts. Its dialogue is definitely clunky, its characters can sometimes feel a little bit flat or even like marionettes, whose opinions and actions are based on how they would affect the player. And yet, the fact that it follows such a unique world and story in the world of video games makes it so easily identifiable, relatable and enjoyable. Couple that with a very palpable beating heart that makes the proceedings downright amazing and you’ve got yourself probably one of the best video games of the last five years.

In a very real way, DONTNOD embodies the revolution that I feel Alt-Games have not been able to satisfiably articulate for me. Video games that effectively encapsulate an experience that’s outre from the standards of violence/exploration that are so common to the medium. Life is Strange is more akin to a Sundance drama with all of the implied cliches, flaws and benefits that implies. The game can definitely be Overly Twee, to a fault, but most of the time it’s just reinvigorating to navigate this world of friendship, bizarre time travel and high school politics.

Episode 2 focuses a little bit more on Kate’s place on the school. Kate is the archetypal pure Christian Girl whose main flaw and source of conflict is that her behavior does not align with her beliefs. The key difference, however, is that Kate’s sinful behavior was not a product of a sober state of mind. Thus, as Max, the time-rewinding protagonist of the game, you can either promise her to investigate more or push her to go to the police.

This is where the game gets fascinating. Most choice-based games like this rely on genre conventions to inadvertently tip the hand of the player. Helping the survivalist vs helping the idealist. Taking a stand vs being meek. But Life is Strange’s decisions are often rooted in conflicts where the real world and the social experiences we often are familiar with rear their ugly head in. “Do you take this call while talking to your best friend?”, “Do you tell your friend who was taken advantage of in video to go to the police or to trust you to make a case in her name?” “Bacon omelette or belgian waffles?”

The funny thing about these scenarios is that they’re clearly built on fiction and overtly dramatic high stakes, but Life is Strange always manages to find a hybrid between the intensified heightened reality it’s portraying by being an interactive John Hughes movie, a light sci-fi story about time travel and basically Stand By Me-redux. This is best exemplified by the moments the game spends with Chloe, who continues to be the standout character in the game. Chloe is probably one of the most vibrant characters in any video game out there today. And so much it has to do with the fact that the game perfectly understands the little tics and beats of what friendship is actually like. Especially with someone from a complicated background as Chloe’s who sometimes doesn’t have the best emotional intelligence because the relationship we see on screen is her main support system. She’s painfully human in a way that’s both terrifying and endearing.

It’s a shame that most of the other characters don’t feel as well-drawn. An episode that deviates into dangerous territory with a suicide attempt doesn’t actually allow you to relearn and reapproach the consequences of your actions in the same way the game usually does. This would be fine, considering the nature of the event, if it were not so contrived. Which is in general the only problem the game suffers of. The plot structure often feels railroaded and not allowing you for the options that your power is supposed to bring to you. Admittedly this only taints a little bit of what’s still a remarkable game that goes a long way towards furthering the purposes of a remarkable episode one.

As we go forward, Life is Strange is bound to face some challenges, being a genuinely unique game out there but it looks more and more like it’s up to facing those obstacles and overcoming them. Max’s journey from caterpillar in a cocoon to butterfly is already in full swing and while I have genuine issues, the potential and most importantly the sense of wonder and awe that video games these often fail to inspire through their storytelling are here. Life is Strange is a wonderful video game that ponders the nature of friendship in an artistic environment that has often reduced friendship to a given or an unnecessary feature of stories. For that alone, it deserves your interest. It deserves your attention, however, because it dares to feature a compelling character who’s more in line with a filmic/TV creation. Chloe is not as clear cut or easy to pin down as your average video game character but her behavior is amazingly humane and her personality and style are so vibrant it’s not hard to be drawn to her. On that alone, both her and her milieu deserves your interest.