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Video Game Review: Life is Strange, Episode 2

April 6, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
Life is Strange
Life gets pretty strange for Max once she leaves her dorm room.

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.

When Life Is Strange’s first episode ended, our hero Max was left reunited with an old friend while filled with premonitions of a potentially cataclysmic future. Oh, and she had the power to rewind time, a game mechanic that allowed the player to explore the different choices possible in dialogue trees and actions.

Out of Time, the second episode, opens quietly for Max. She’s back in her dorm, and a lot of narrative threads from the previous episode remain open. What should you do? You have friends who can use your help, Chloe texting you to hurry up and meet her, the usual dorm shenanigans that have been established by now and Max really wants to take a shower.

But the strange (no pun intended) thing is that despite having a theoretical time limit (Chloe is pretty insistent on her breakfast time), you can take as much time as you want to explore and influence all of these events. For a game that talks about the consequences of choice and time, this freedom seems oddly out of place, though it does add to the game’s world building.

However, without getting into spoiler territory here, Life Is Strange soon throws twists that create consequences and limitations to Max’s abilities. In fact, the second half of the episode focuses away from the school and dorm and on to much heavier topics. At the same time the story evolves, which introduces quirks to how Max interacts with the world. This creates a tension that wasn’t there in the first episode.

Pacing is a bit of an issue in the middle portion when you’re on a proverbial treasure hunt in a junkyard. The goal is to explore the environment to get closer to the characters, but it winds up being an adventure game trope that should have stayed buried. Fortunately, events quickly change and choices become more fraught with tension and no-win situations.

One thing that hasn’t changed from the first episode is the soap opera-esque dialogue and characters. Though they’re grounded in reality more so than, say, the Persona series, characterizations come in broad strokes. However, say and do the right things and you’ll find more nuance in their history, and the game is clearly building to the fact that almost all of the characters have more beneath the surface.

Also, the game is rife with nerd references. From Doctor Who to Twin Peaks, there are Easter eggs for fans of all types of genres and franchises. There’s even a Nick Meyer reference for the hardcore Trekkies out there.

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.

OVERALL (4/5)

An enjoyable continuation of the unique world established in Life is Strange’s first episode, Out of Time has its faults but still adds a palpable tension and sense of consequence that wasn’t there before.

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Video Game Review: White Night

March 16, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
White Night offers a unique take on survival horror. Instead of running out of health or ammo, you’re running out of light. Only by finding boxes of matches or the occasional light switch can you see the actual game. Matchboxes seem plentiful until you need one, and that adds to the tension and suspense.
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Video Game Review: The Order: 1886

March 2, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
Even at its worst, however, The Order is still fun to play. Cool weapons and some truly fantastical environments overcome the faults when a sequence is just waves of nondescript enemies. Had this game’s design come out a few years ago, no one would be complaining. There’s just a sense that you’ve done it before, and its abrupt ending doesn’t do justice to what you’ve invested yourself in.
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Video Game Review: Dead Kings DLC

January 21, 2015 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
As an apology for the gigantic mess that was Unity’s launch, Ubisoft has offered the formerly premium Dead Kings DLC for free. On the surface, this is a generous offer, as the DLC was previously the highlight of the game’s DLC plan. It’s big, roughly 5-to-6 hours to finish the main post-Unity story, and its map is probably about one-third of the main game’s Paris.
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Video Game Review: Dragon Age: Inquisition

November 26, 2014 | by Mike Chen | Comments Comments Off
While Inquisition isn’t a true open-world game, it certainly feels like one thanks to extremely large playable spaces and segments. However, unlike open-world comparables in the Elder Scrolls series, you never quite get the feeling of filler or traveling for the sake of traveling when you’re moving from point A to point B. Areas feel just large enough to give you a sense of scope and purpose without exhausting the soles of your party’s shoes.
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