“Life Is Strange” Is Finally Here For Everyone! 10 Reasons You Should Stop What You’re Doing And Play It

Life Is Strange, an Apocalyptic Teenage Feelings Adventure Video Game, released its first of five episodes in January of 2015, and I have been yelling at everybody I know to play it ever since then. The problem, though, is that most of the people I know are professional adults who don’t have video game consoles and whose computers are Macs, and Life Is Strange was available on every platform except Mac, and it was all a giant mess. But on June 16th, Life Is Strange finally landed in the Apple app store, so: time to keep yelling!

The basic premise is: You are Max Caulfield, an 18-year-old photography nerd of a girl who has just moved back from Seattle to your hometown, Arcadia Bay, Oregon, for your senior year of high school. The game begins with you waking up from a nightmare in class. For some reason you deal with that by taking a picture of a butterfly on a bucket, then a fight breaks out, and then you gain time-control powers. And also the world is maybe ending, and also your childhood best friend Chloe got super dreamy while you were away. Tale as old as time.

That’s all I can say without getting into the story, and the story is really the whole point. So here’s what I can tell you, and ten reasons you should absolutely play it if you haven’t yet.

1. This is a great entry-level game.

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Even if you never play video games, or if you haven’t played since Super Nintendo or whatever was the thing when you were in 6th grade, there’s almost no learning curve here. It lets you play at your own pace, and the time-control mechanic means that if anything does catch you off guard, you can usually get a do-over if you want one. There are no zombies to shoot. The game world is easier to navigate than most websites, and it usually tells you where to go and what to do. At its heart, Life Is Strange is really an interactive story more than a game. All you really need to know is: click on everything and talk to everybody. And be nice to Kate Marsh, please.

2. It starts out video game-y and honestly a little silly, but it will wreck you.

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This is probably the right place to mention that this game really does get dark. It’s never gratuitous, but there’s a lot of content that could be triggering for a number of reasons, so you might want to do a little research before playing if that’s a concern. (And it’s also just really sad a lot of the time.) Having said that, the big moments are real big, but the quiet ones sneak up on you, and ultimately those are what have lingered for me. This game is FEELINGS. It’s secrets and sleepovers and nightswimming and it’s awkward and stupid and young. There are moments that are so perfectly teenage I could almost smell my old bedroom at my parents’ house, for better or worse.

3. It’s really goddamn gorgeous.

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Graphically it’s not exactly cutting edge, but the color palette and the clutter is just so beautifully put together. It’s cohesive and atmospheric, and it has the perfect mopey indie rock soundtrack to ground you in it. I had the soundtrack playlist going on Spotify pretty much constantly from May to October last year. The worldbuilding is so complete and successful that you might, say, forget to progress the game for a few minutes because you’re too busy listening to “Bright Eyes” and watching the light stream in the windows.

4. Here’s a controversial thing: The language. It is very slang-heavy.

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Probably within the first ten minutes you will cringe and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. Probably by the end of Episode 2 you will have forgotten to notice it at all. Probably by the end of the game you will find yourself saying “hella” and wondering how that happened. I don’t know. I grew to love it. I’m calling it character.

5. Sometimes you kind of need to be an asshole to get things done.

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And sometimes it takes a lot of tries to figure out exactly how to do that, and sometimes that winds up being really funny to watch. But also, because you’re rewinding time, I always wonder, like, are there now five alternate timelines where Frank is covered in beans? I think there are. The game doesn’t confirm or deny it; the time stuff is vague. But there’s a lot of room for theorizing, and whether or not you think you’re creating branching timelines colors the morality of basically everything. Like, dropping paint on Victoria once is probably necessary, and rewinding it to watch it a couple times is understandable, but what if you’ve created three pointless timelines of sad Victorias with ruined cashmere just because it was funny? That’s just cruel, Max.

6. VICTORIA CHASE.

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Okay this one is probably just me. She’s a horrible awful bully so naturally she is my favorite. Her dorm room is right across the hall from Max’s, which is something I have given very little thought to. She wears PEARLS.

7. But, more importantly, probably: Chloe Price.

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She’s the dream. She’s like a girl version of Jordan Catalano except she’s not the worst. She’s tall and broody and makes really bad decisions every single day, and she is precious. I can’t really talk about Chloe. I love Chloe. Maybe she’s not Jordan Catalano; maybe she’s Tim Riggins. She does drive a pickup truck.

8. You will be faced with important decisions

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Such as: Breakfast: sweet or savory?

9. The feelings are really everything.

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The main thing, though, which is hard to fully talk about without getting into spoilers, is that the game treats the feelings of these characters with a kind of respect that’s very rare. You get super powers, but there are no monsters to kill. A comparison I like to make is to Buffy, which was all “high school is hell” but then the plot was always there to remind you that actually there are more important things to worry about. Life Is Strange tells you the world is ending before it tells you what the world even is, and then it just puts you in it to live for a while and leaves it up to you to decide what the real story is. What is your life, what is your world, what would you save, what even can you save? Is it really your business to be saving anybody or anything? But the game is so immersive that you’ll forget all about it all for long stretches until suddenly you really can’t forget. I finished this game in October and I still think about it almost daily.

10. You don’t have to wait!

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All five episodes were released for Mac simultaneously (and all five are also available on every other supported platform). You’ll never have to know how it felt to wait almost three months after Episode 4 to find out how the story ends. Although it might actually be a good move to space them out a bit. But you have the power: it’s up to you! (I would have rushed right through them, I just know it.)

Life Is Strange is available on PC, Mac, Ps3, Ps4, XBox 360 and XBox One. It will run you about $20 for the whole game (five episodes), and each episode takes about three to four hours to play through depending on how much you explore/how much time you spend sitting on a tree stump watching the world go by/how many times you rewind to see Alyssa get hit with a football. It was my favorite piece of media of 2015, and it’s possibly my favorite video game I’ve ever played. And if you play it, you can yell at me about time travel theory and the morality of superpowers. Actually you can yell at me about those things regardless, but if that’s the kind of stuff you like to yell about you really just ought to play this game.

(Developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix. Ported to Mac by Feral Interactive Ltd.)

Sarah lives in the Boston area and plays a lot of video games. Her interests are cats, bragging, and foods that can be eaten lying down. She has too many sneakers and not enough pants.

sarah has written 30 articles for us.

62 Comments

  1. (there’s an attempt at being spoiler-free here, aside from trigger mentions)

    I guess maybe it’s just me, but Episode 5 felt really gratuitous in the “darkness”, and I couldn’t ever play it myself. From drugging, kidnapping, and taunting from an authority figure, to the violent commentary in the nightmare maze that consistently threatened death and rape (and one comment is clear about necrophilia)… it was difficult just to watch someone else play through these long sequences. It all felt put there for shock value, and that it could have been covered with more subtlety.

    Early game was nice though, and they did put a lot of effort into different rooms, giving each character such personality.

    • Episode 5 was VERY aggressive. I guess what I meant by “gratuitous” was more about what you see than what is said?

      I dunno. By the time you get to that point, you have the benefit of knowledge and Max can act with agency in the face of all the grossness happening. It’s awful, but it’s also just so dorky, and the game let’s you point that out. That’s not to say that it’s elegant, but it mostly got frustratingly boring, which was I think the point? How many times do we have to listen to this dude, basically.

      Anyway, I don’t disagree with you. Episode 5 gets explicit in a way the rest of the game doesn’t, and it was jarring. Ultimately for me though it was a satisfying last chapter. (Episode 4 though was a goddamn masterpiece.)

  2. **SPOILERS SPOILERS LA-LA-LA SPOILERS**

    Yussss to everything here, but especially #s 5 and 6! Did you know that choosing to make fun of Victoria in ep 1 (rather than comfort her) prevents her from from getting kidnapped/killed in ep 5?! TRUE STORY. Is that not the funniest thing? Except the really sad thing is that even knowing that, I still couldn’t bring myself to play it any different. Flustering Victoria with random acts of kindness was my #1 favorite thing to do throughout the whole game, and finally winning her over at the pool party was so gratifying, I legit don’t even fucking care if it got her kidnapped. Worth it. (Hufflepuff problems?)

  3. I loved it at first because let’s be honest it’s so atmospheric and emotional, visually and aurally, but the ending completely ruined the point of the game! SPOILERS next, I guess.

    Like, developers promised the game to be very dependant on choices, and in the end all the choices you’ve made just became pointless, they don’t actually alter the ending in any way, this is so frustrating! I believe that Dontnod could’ve make the game so much better if they didn’t rush with it, cause honestly, my friend and I, we could think of at least 5 different endings, not the two that were so obvious from the very beginning.

  4. Fantastic summary of one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. I think I haven’t been in such an emotional mess since the break-up with my first big love. It’s hella awesome, give it a try. And again: Brilliant article!

  5. I tried this last night using my friend’s game, and I thought it was a cool idea, but every time it was like “THIS ACTION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES!” my anxiety spiked. And I was just playing the first episode before “shit goes down,” as my friend said. I’m going to try to play more on my friend’s game but if it gives me more anxiety then I’M OUT.

    • Actions always have consequences. This gave me anxiety first as well, but once you start moving through the game you realize that is entirely part of the game play (and life) and it’s not as dire as you think it is. Let the kid in the quad draw your picture, yanno?

      • I actually finished it last weekend and I was fine! I eventually just said “fuck it” and made decisions and tried not to worry too much about the consequences of my actions. And like people have said above

        Spoilers

        in the end your choices don’t even matter! I mean you still find out about Rachel, can turn in Nathan and the photo teacher, but those small actions don’t matter. In my playthrough they didn’t anyway, because I rewound time and sacrificed Chloe.

  6. We were doing a thing at my girlfriend’s house where we gathered up queer ladies and drinks and maybe cheese and took turns playing this projected on the wall. I think we’re only on the 3rd episode, so thanks for the yelling! We’ll have to start it up again now that all the episodes are out.

  7. Damn! I love this game! The most powerful thing for me is that all the caracthers are not black or white, they all are grey! I mean, David is a surveillance-crazy and a douche but he loves his family, I could tell a lot of it !

  8. Oh man everyone has had at LEAST one Chloe ruin their life, amairite? …Yeah I just finished this game, it hit waaayyy too many soft spots and now here I am lol. I need a hug and maybe some icecream.

  9. Just wanted to let dufrau know that *this* article is the reason I finally played this game last weekend. I blew through all the episodes at once and it was like:

    Episode 1-3: I am really tired of this stupid teen romance thing with dead lesbian tropes.

    Episode 5: Time has melted and I am a god.

    I am very glad I played it!

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