I wasn’t completely taken with the game Life is Strange. I played the first episode back in December, and thought its time travel gimmick was clever, but wasn’t sure if I could stomach the high school drama. The time travel mechanic allows you to rewind time after difficult choices and see the immediate consequences of either action and then make a decision about which one you want to make permanent. It feels like you are peeking behind the curtain a little bit and makes the choices a little less stressful.
I just finished the second episode and it pulled off a brilliant magic trick. The climax of the episode is that a girl has just thrown herself off the roof of the school, and the main character Max tries to reverse time to stop it. The power is taking a great toll on her body, but she unleashes a new power to freeze time and rush up to the roof. As she stands up there, nose bleeding profusely (always a bad sign when it comes to time travel), Max realizes she can no longer reverse time. The next conversation, the one where she needs to talk a girl off the ledge, is now suddenly very permanent.
Having that ability ripped away at such an important time completely amps up the tension of the scene. Max was then judged based on all sorts of actions taken over the last two episodes, and questions tested your memory and how well you explored various scenes. And I really didn’t want to mess up. The post game wrapup confirmed the permanence of the choice. Only 67% of players managed to save her.
I’m still not onboard with the high school drama. Max’s friend Chloe is an embodiment of terrible choices and influence, and I’m frustrated by the way Max seems to go along with it. But I’m excited to see more tense and suspenseful scenes as the game toys with its mechanics and the player.