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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: Bloodborne

April 3, 2015 | by Casey Curran | Comments Comments Off
Bloodborne is what a new IP should be: it retains the fundamentals that made From Software’s past games special, yet adds a new twist to offer a similar but not identical experience. What made the Souls games stand out is still present, though, with tough as nails gameplay, unforgiving structure and a world that tells a story through subtle clues you uncover.
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Video Game Review: Battlefield Hardline

April 1, 2015 | by Jeff Cater | Comments Comments Off
Having fun and engaging campaigns haven’t been the franchise’s strong suit, but that isn’t the case with Hardline. Not only does the storyline rope you in by taking you to beautiful and varied locations, but there is also cop work to engage in (like collecting evidence, arresting criminals, etc.) and cleverly disguised collectibles in the form of audio tracks that provide background to the story.
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Video Game Review: Axiom Verge

March 30, 2015 | by Herija Green | Comments Comments Off
It has become cliché to refer to modern games inspired by classic titles as “love letters,” but Thomas Happ’s homage to Metroid, Axiom Verge, can’t be described any other way. From start to finish, it nails the 16-bit vibe to a T, sending those old enough to remember the NES and SNES days on a nostalgia fueled kick. That being said, gaming has made some worthwhile advancements since then, and the game’s strict adhearence to its source material is a double-edged sword.
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Video Game Review: Bladestorm: Nightmare

March 27, 2015 | by Jeff Cater | Comments Comments Off
The goal of Bladestorm: Nightmare is to create a badass mercenary and lead squads of English or French forces to victory in a wide variety of battle placements. That being said, the war takes place entirely between England and France, so the map doesn’t really change too much unless you select another location to venture forth to or deploy at.
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