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Xbox One Game Review

Life is Strange
Episode 5


Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
RRP: £3.99
Click here to buy from Xbox Marketplace
Age Restrictions: 16+
Release Date: 20 October 2015

Max learns that time is impossible to control as she moves inexorably towards the most agonising decision of her life. Arcadia Bay, meanwhile, is preparing to weather a huge storm as Life is Strange comes to a gripping and gut wrenching conclusion...

Life is Strange is a five part episodic game that sets out to revolutionise story based choice and consequence games by allowing the player to rewind time and affect the past, present and future. It's a refreshing change of pace for those who usually get their kicks by playing fast paced FPS.

Review imageAt £3.99 an episode (or £16 for the season pass that contains all the episodes) this is a steal. It's a no brainer. This is a fun and intense game. While some may argue that there's not very much to the actual game play, it's not really about that. This game is all about watching the story unfold and making numerous decisions that will flip the story on another path.

Episode four, as we've come to expect, ended on a cliff-hanger and I was really looking forward to finding out what happened next... This concluding episode doesn't disappoint, however there are not as many choices or options as in previous chapters of the game, but then this is probably to be expected as everything is slowly concluded.

There are very few puzzles in this episode, other than the bizarre sequence where you have to correctly emerge from your dormitory (every door you open seems to take you back to the corridor); finding the keypad number when you're locked in a toilet with hundreds of different combinations scrawled on the walls; and making your way to the lighthouse without being spotted by characters with torches. This is an episode where you soak up the storyline, revisit the entire story and then are confronted with one monumental choice.

Review imageThose that have enjoyed playing this from the start will not be disappointed here. In fact there were only two areas I thought let it down a little: the overly long conversion, and options, with David and the slight focus on the potential lesbian angle of Max and Chloe's relationship (this is most noticeable in the diorama museum-esque journey you experience towards the end of the game). It's not that I had an issue with the relationship, it's just that it kind of lingers on this aspect a little too much. For me, the game is about their close friendship, not about whether or not there is a latent homosexual relationship beneath the surface.

I actually enjoyed the diorama walk through of the main story. It reminded me of a theme park attraction, and it helps to remind you of some of the highpoints (and a few of the low points) of Max and Chloe's adventure together.

The turning back time element is used a little less than in previous episodes, but there are elements of the game where it comes in useful (saving some of the residents of Arcadia Bay) and essential (saving your own neck).

Review imageAs I suspected, and mentioned in reviews of the previous chapters of the game, it really doesn't matter what choices you've made in any of the previous episodes - and whether you let certain characters die or you saved them. There's a nice little speech given towards the end of the game where it's pointed out to you that none of the choices you made were for anything other than selfish reasons and to make yourself more popular. On reflection this, as it is in the real world, is very true. It was an interesting touch to have a mirror held up to the gamer at such an important part of the game.

Unlike previous episodes, this time around I didn't replay the game (other than the last chapter, in order to see the alternate ending). Usually I play each episode through several time. The first go through I play on instinct, making the decisions I think I'd make in real life. On the second play through, with knowledge of the rest of the episode, I chose the path that involved always making the morally good decisions and on the third play through I deliberately made the wrong/bad decisions. However, with this episode there's very little you can change.

Review imageAs I've mentioned previously, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter what you choose, as the main narrative still pans out the same. However, you do run the risk of missing, if you're not paying attention, some of the side quests: like saving some of the members of Arcadia Bay. At the end of the game you are shown all of the decisions along with percentages of the choices that the rest of the gaming community chose. In addition you might spot some things that you totally missed which you can then go back and tackle on subsequent play throughs.

As always, there are also the photo opportunities to find. In your journal you have a page with clues of photos to take. If you find them and manage to snap the shot, the clues turn into actual photos. But worry not if you can't find them all as you can replay each segment of the game, without changing your storyline decisions, to ensure that you get them all. In this chapter, even though I knew where the photo opportunities were, I still has a hard time working out how to ensure conditions were right. For example, I couldn't find the 'Dark Room' photo opportunity of the camera, despite walking around the room for ages.

Review imageSo now we know what happened to Rachel Amber and who was responsible for her disappearance. We also discover what the weird storm is all about. If I had one slight regret, it's that the writers didn't make more use of the mysterious homeless lady. I originally suspected that this would turn out to be an alternate version of Max who had travelled back in time and gotten stuck (therefore being old in the current timeline). I was hoping that she had stayed around Arcadia Bay in order to help young Max with some vital information, and that living on the streets convinced of her once ability to travel in time, had made her lose her marbles... Sadly, it would seem, she was just a homeless lady.

It's an emotional roller coaster of a game, with an interesting storyline. It's certainly worth adding to your collection. £16 for all five episodes is a bargain you can't afford to miss out on. I don't think I've played a game like this before where I really invested in the characters.


Nick Smithson

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