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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Such as: Breakfast: sweet or savory?
9. The feelings are really everything.
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!
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.)
Damn! Amazon doesn’t have it for Xbox 360 :(
It’s on Xbox store if that helps :)
I think you might have to get it through the Xbox store digitally, the physical release was pretty limited.
I love this! I could listen to you talk about video games forrreeeevvveeeer.
You compared it to Buffy and told me I could make breakfast decisions and throw beans at a boy I’M IN LIKE FLYNN. I can’t wait to play and shout my (string) theories at you!
I always felt bad because I never super loved Chloe. Like (spoilers) I had max choose her and shove warren off and such but I never loved how she treated Max or her in general. Maybe it’s because I was never super into girls like Chloe. Maybe it’s because she’s still 300000% in love with Rachel (her name was Rachel right? It’s been too long)
I mean I did a whole second playthrough looking for secret Victoria-romance route so I think I’m also less Chloe obsessed than I should be? But she’s still a broken butterfly tough guy and I want to keep her safe forever.
I am totally disinterested in video games in general BUT this is as convincing a pitch for them as I have ever heard.
I group this game with TV shows I’m obsessed with more than I group it with other video games – because of the feelings.
Yes to all of the above!! I mostly watched my GF play it (I got too stressed out by the end of Episode 2, and some of the camera stuff makes me feel really motion sick) and it was incredible. Beautiful artwork, and the soundtrack is just the best (and reminded me a lot of Richmond Fontaine, who are also from Oregon and who are brilliantly miserable all the time).
I would second it being a good game for beginners as well – I am bad at every games console that isn’t an N64, and my PS3 level of skill is Lego Marvel Superheroes, and I could still make things work.
Play it, and be prepared to cry.
All of this! Exactly what you said about being able to smell your old room. It’s so true, it just takes you back to that age which I think is a brilliant feat. Games so often take us to the far reaches of space, or mystical realms, but for me it’s a greater achievement to make me feel like I’m a teen again and just struggling through all of that all over again…not going to lie at times it’s painful but that adds to the realism for me…for as much realism as you can get when you’re playing as a super powered photography student.
I love this game so much, I can’t bear to finish it…and it definitely had me saying hella way too much for a few weeks.
Okay so I played the fan-made thing with the same characters (titled Love is Strange) and loved it and as a mac owner I CAN NOW PLAY THE ACTUAL THING no one will hear from me all weekend. See y’all on the other side.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, so much yes! Seriously, this game will tear out your heart, rip it to tiny little shreds and then turn the remains to mush with a sledgehammer and you’ll love every second of it. Without hesitation, best video game of all time, gorgeous visuals, gorgeous music, complex characters, the hardest choices you’ll EVER make in a game, actual, real issues, ALL of the feels, and most importantly: Max and Chloe *faints*
I played this for the first time in December and it messed me up so bad I still sometimes just randomly start crying (I cry really easy in general, but usually not like this). If you’re okay with dying inside and spending at least the next few weeks trying to fill the hole in your heart, play it now!
Also great is watching Kaitlyn Alexander (of Carmilla and Couple-Ish) play it on their youtube channel
Oops that was totally not the right exact link but it’s #RealisticallyPlaying: Life Is Strange Ep 1 [Pt 1]– That Escalated Quickly || Realisticallysaying
On the subject of Let’s Plays, totally check out Laura K Buzz play Life is Strange for an additional queer perspective.
I hope the embed works…
Here’s a plain link in case it doesnt.
Okay then. I guess the plain link is fine. :confused:
On that note, I’d also highly recommend eminknightly: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlCJdHimFdE6yyJMcUkFgkZr2qdT5MaEU
and Adam Koebel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLAmPx8nWedFUYzgeodNLphd5WVxwvHlyt
I don’t have a link handy, but the Geekremix let’s play is also really great.
This is also my favorite piece of media from last year, holy shit. This stayed with me for MONTHS after I finished it. I had dreams about it. I still think about the choices I made and if they were “right.” Fuckin a dude, this game is amazing.
This game is one of the best and most important videogames of all time. It is a must-play.
Still not on Linux. :-/
Soon my friend. Soon.
It’s also available for linux Ubuntu!
Awesome first post Sarah! I agree with everything you wrote so much, though I think I love Chloe more than you did. She’s my everything! Fuck, everyone who plays this talks about how it sticks with you and it’s true, it really does. It’ll just wash over me with bittersweet feels at the most unexpected times. Such amazing writing and design!
Is this game first-person or nah? I just get terrible motion sickness playing first-person games and don’t want to miss out :(
It’s third person but kinda first person-y. I think it could do the motion sickness thing. Maybe you could check out one of the let’s plays linked in the comments to see if the camera bothers you?
I feel the same about first person (I had to take a break and lie down after every 20 minutes of Gone Home and finished that short game in a few days because I was not feeling well), but I never had camera issues on Life is Strange.
It’s a third person perspective game, check it out!
It’s over the shoulder of the main character.
Felicia Day also did a Let’s Play of the whole thing, which is how I experienced it. Recommend.
I like Felicia Day a lot, but frankly I couldn’t stand half an hour of her let’s play. This game deserves to be experienced either directly or through the lense of someone who actually immerses themselves in it, pays attention to it and lets it work its magic.
Ymmv, obviously, but personally I absolutely wouldn’t recommend this for a first experience. A second or third one, sure, if you like her style, but if anyone wants to go straight to a let’s play without playing themselves, there are way, way better ones for that. I’ve seen quite a few of them by now and Emiknightly and Adam Koebel are, in my view, hands down the best. Nothing against Felicia, honestly, but I needed to put this out there cause I’d feel bad for anyone going straight to this one. Better to keep it for later…
Yeah hers was a livestream I think so she was dealing with chat while playing, so it’s just less immersive by nature. I watched a bit of her when she was streaming it and it didn’t grab me, but if you WANT a less emotionally intense experience it might be good?
Yea, it can be off-putting to watch a recorded twitch stream on youtube if you aren’t aware of what’s going on with chat. And – it feels like she is paying less attention to the game than what she actually does.
I watched the youtube videos after I had played the game, and her snark was very entertaining – also, she did some crying; her feelings journey about chloe was fun.
Yeah, exactly. I don’t doubt for a second that you can have a lot of fun with her stream, but this game is magical and some of that just gets lost. If you already know the story and had your breakdowns that’s fine, but it’s maybe not totally ideal for a first time.
By the way, Adam Koebel also streamed, but that didn’t stop him from immersing himself and when he talked to the chat he was talking about the nature of narrative, queer representation and all the issues raised by the game, in short he had the conversations it wants you to have, instead of talking too much about unrelated stuff.
“You’ll never have to know how it felt to wait almost three months after Episode 4 to find out how the story ends.”
Ha ha, yeah, I felt that back in October, waiting for the last episode. The same thing bugged me about Dreamfall chapters too, though Life is Strange had a more “satisfying” ending to me in spite of stuff (don’t wanna spoil anything for anyone!). Of course, some regular games are like that too (we had to wait two years to find out what happened after the end of Final Fantasy XIII-2!).
Do you recommend the Final Fantasy series to a Mass Effect/Dragon Age queer person? I’ve always had it at the back of my mind but I never knew anyone other than straight men who recommended it, and well, I don’t trust their recs.
Some of them, sure! The Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has a lesbian couple in it, actually. Plus, Lightning, the main character in XIII-1 and XIII-3 is super-hot:
Of all the ones I’ve played, Final Fantasy VI was my personal favorite (and you can get it from the app store for an iPhone or an Android!). Part of that could be triggering; there’s a character who attempts suicide on-screen. The rest of the games that I’ve played, I had fun playing, but VI is the one I’ve probably played the most times, honestly. It’s not part of the main series, but Final Fantasy Explorers on the DS is also lots of fun.
Did you ever play any of the Elder Scrolls games? I definitely recommend those if you like the Dragon Age games.
I tried getting into Skyrim but I played as a dude and didn’t get more than 20h of play. I wanted to reroll with an archer or mage but never got around to doing it. I also tried the Fallout games but F4 has an awful field of view that gives me a giant headache. Maybe Betehsda and I aren’t meant to be :(
The FF games have so many numbers, it confuses the crap out of me haha! Gotta check out the wiki.
This is my favorite video game in like… a decade? More? Maybe favorite since I learned how to be a real human? I just loved it in too many ways to say.
Also, I went out and got Chloe’s hair. It kinda had to be done.
YASSSS VICTORIA CHASE!!!!!!!! I can’t help but ship her with Max <3
Seriously, everyone needs to play this game, finally. It deserves ALL the love on Autostraddle.
Riiiight? Why won’t she love me?
IKR! In my headcanon she is a giant gaymo and is totally into Max and nobody can convince me otherwise :D
Oh, have you played the fan game Love is Strange?
No, I’ve heard a little about it but I’m pretty satisfied with this as a complete story so I haven’t really had the urge to play Love is Strange.
Having said that I have definitely clicked on every Max/Victoria fic on AO3 because my principles are just bendy as hell.
Haha I just played it to get my Max/Victoria :) And about the fics, I think I read all the good ones, hope the fandom doesn’t die out anytime soon.
(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.)
I can see it that way, too. Honestly, when are we all going to learn how to rewind time when being hassled or attacked by creeps? I’ve been waiting for this.
Oh my god, I am so excited to finally be able to play this.
**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?)
I, too, love Victoria Chase
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.
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!
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
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.
Hey Dufrau! Nice writing, kid! Keep writing more stuff to post here, please! Maybe some of your fan fiction musings, as they are a hoot. Just a thought…
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.
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 !
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.
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!
Olá, adoro a sua escrita! compartilhar estaremos em contato mais aproximadamente a sua postagem na AOL?
Preciso de um especialista nesta área para resolver meu problema.
Talvez seja você! Olhando para frente para olhar para você.