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Video Game Review: Life is Strange, Episode 4

July 30, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
Life is Strange
Dark Room finally takes Max deep into the Vortex Club.

Please note that since each episode of Life is Strange features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of Chrysalis.

Life Is Strange’s third episode ended with a hell of a cliffhanger, but given Max’s ability to rewind time, it seemed like this was primed for a copout resolution within the first few seconds of Dark Room. Fortunately, the team at Dontnod stood their ground and the opening segment sets the tone for an emotional and intense episode.

For better or worse, though the episode feels a little longer than previous ones, actual gameplay segments seem to be getting shorter and shorter, with less emphasis on controls and more on listening/watching. This is particularly true for the first half of the episode, as some sections are literally all dialogue with minimal interactivity.

Dontnod has had to incorporate decisions from the past three episodes and create dialogue for all possible outcomes. Given that, there are some notably awkward transitions, where it seems like the dialogue tree permutations didn’t exactly sync up. This is noticeable in two particular sequences, one at a trailer park and one at a party. You’ll feel yourself gaining momentum with the character and then they’ll say something completely opposite.

While Max is still played well by actress Hannah Telle, some of her supporting cast is hit or miss. Chloe’s annoying tendencies are toned down and even specifically addressed through a somewhat meta moment, while others (Kate, Frank, Nathan) are played either too over the top or too deadpan given the circumstances.

As with the awkward transitions, this might be a function of trying to cover too much ground in terms of how the player got there. Also, one logistical question we couldn’t shake — if the school’s photography class has like a dozen students, why is the contest such a big deal to a campus big enough to have a football team?

As the penultimate episode of Life Is Strange, Dark Room starts to draw the various storylines together while raising the stakes. This leads to life-or-death moments or choices with chaotic ripples down the line.

Even with a handful of poorly planned puzzles, this keeps the pressure up on the player with a creeping anxiety that culminates in an even bigger cliffhanger than the last episode. Even if you saw it coming, it will likely gut-punch you… which is the perfect setup for what should be a whopper of a finale.

OVERALL (4 / 5)

Despite some technical hiccups and questionably designed puzzles, Dark Room is consistently engaging and continues to ramp the stakes up for the series’ conclusion.

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Video Game Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

July 24, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
If you’re not clued into ’90s puzzle/adventure PC games, Ethan Carter is broken up into 10 individual sections that help to unravel the, um, the titular vanishing. These vary in difficulty, but you’ll definitely need to tap into your problem-solving skills to get through them.
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Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China

June 1, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
While not as parkour-intense as the main series, Shao Jun will still spend most of her time running, vaulting and climbing things. Stealth takes place via the environment — avoiding line of sight and utilizing hiding places will get you past guard vision cones. Once detected, you can fight your way through or find a hiding spot and wait for the Metal Gear-like alert timer to count down.
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Video Game Review: Life is Strange, Episode 3

May 25, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
Puzzles now require a bit of lateral thinking, which is a great way to exploit Max’s rewind powers outside of simply exploring dialogue trees. The game still has fetch quests, but there’s a bigger payoff by integrating rewind abilities into them thanks to Max’s evolving powers. There’s also an awkward stealth sequence that can be completed without a lot of stealth. We give Dontnod marks for trying to add variety into the gameplay, but it could have been thought out better, particularly with the unique mechanic of rewinding time.
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Video Game Review: Life is Strange, Episode 2

April 6, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
Despite a sluggish middle passage, Out of Time ends with an organic closing beat while opening more threads for future episodes. In short, there is plenty of anticipation for what happens next, though developers Dontnod will have hopefully evaluated how to integrate puzzle segments more effectively.
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