Life Is Strange-Too Cool For Its Own Good?
JDINCINERATOR last edited by
(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!)
Let me begin by saying Life Is Strange is a terrific series of games that do a splendid yet delicate job of tackling very sobering issues pertaining to the growth of young people from adolescence to adulthood. I love how these games are able to establish characters and settings in an array of diverse and interesting ways that let us feel the hardships and the touching moments in an expressive way that hadn't been seen too much before the franchise debuted.
Part of the allure of Life Is Strange is seeing how the young protagonists start realizing just how messed up life is. Maxine Caulfield and her ambitions in the first game soon give way to shocking occurrences and reveals that begin to leverage the game's shocking directions. Life Is Strange has always been about how young adults start navigating the twisted unpredictability of other people's actions, forcing the characters to grow up faster as a result. Meanwhile, they're coming to understand who they were whilst contending with who they are becoming.
However, to address the title of this blog-there are many times when Life Is Strange seems carried away with itself that it loses sight somewhat of its greater qualities. Many a time Life Is Strange relies on playful jokes and minor role-playing silliness to create a light-hearted tone that is meant to offset the more serious subject matter later on. Despite the often playful nature of these bits though, the same kind of humour is generated time and time again that it gets old. Take a certain dispute between father, brother and other brother in Life Is Strange 2 over a chocolate bar. This scene is imaginatively outlaid to us in a courtroom fashion, where you get to decide who deserves the chocolate treat. Ok yes this does make what would've otherwise been a casual argument far more interesting, but again this sense of humour doesn't relent.
And this brings me on to the overuse of "hella" in the first game. I get that Blackwell Academy is a high school and people in high school in America have attitudes and want to be adults, but the shallowness of youthful vocabulary pierces through the ears into something that may as well be a knife. I know this is just knit-picking but I'm sure real youth in America isn't as shallow as this, then again they like using their phones so there might be some basis on this. And I wish for once there weren't so many American school hallways with lockers in fiction-give us a British school and classroom for once yikes-but I digress.
I think the humour is better served in the minisode The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, which unlike other Life Is Strange games, features a 9 year-old boy named Chris Eriksen as the protagonist. Here Chris uses his imagination to escape his realities using his action figures and pretending to be a superhero-whilst those realities he's trying to avoid are depressingly etched into his surroundings. But unlike the main games, the humour makes a lot more sense here given the context of Chris's situation, he's a young boy trying to keep that beacon of childhood happiness aflame, so the playfulness sits very comfortably and wonderfully alongside the story that brings the sobering realities to life.
Another point of contention I feel I must bring to the fore is the music. Now I know it's usually fluffy and relaxing music, but just like the humour it tends to be rather one-dimensional. Again, there's nothing wrong with some of that adolescent sweetness that the music does give off, but the tones can be a bit too gentle at times-though admittedly I want something heavy and a bit more interesting but that's just me.
One more thing that has gotten a bit under my skin is how the environment interaction is handled in Life Is Strange. I don't know if there's another game out there that's so obsessed with reminiscence like Life Is Strange. You press the triangle/Y button on your Playstation or Xbox controller and then your character remembers something or remarks about it. I know this kind of interaction does a great job of giving you more insights into the protagonist's state of mind, but they can feel silly and needless at times.
Furthermore it doesn't help that the protagonists have soft voices and when they remember things from the past utterances are so light and delicate like they're speaking from up in heaven. I can forgive the female protagonists being soft touches, but it would be nice if they didn't walk around looking at things and remarking like they were present at a funeral-although the past is like a funeral for the things you used to have that are no longer in your life. Personally I miss my childhood blanket but I don't look at pictures and photographs that remind me of it and then I utter to myself how I miss it as a grown adult-though really it had nice floral flowery patterns and it was a companion of mine.
Life is Strange is an exemplary series with brilliantly told stories and characters. I don't think there is a game franchise out there that so delicately focuses on youthful problems and polemics with such care and attention. Yes there are some personal hang-ups I have with the series but in all honesty the series is great just the way it is. Quite like the youngsters who lead these games, Life Is Strange blooms with life and elegance and gets us to ponder what is really most important to us as players.