Friday, 30 January 2015

And then out of nowhere...

Okay, so I’ve let my obsession with doing one post a week slide a little. Sure, we can start by blaming Christmas Eve, but there’s a simpler explanation. Couldn’t think of anything to write. In those situations, forcing myself to sit down and write is very, very counterproductive. Tearing my hair out and screaming at the sky counterproductive. I’m melodramatic. Deal with it.

However, side-stepping this melodrama for now, we take a trip back in time to August 2014. Somewhat fitting, given what I’m about to start talking about. Anyway, it was in that month of that year that something caught my eye. An article about a new game Square Enix were going to publish. What caught my eye was that the screenshot of the game’s central protagonist bears a striking resemblance to a lovely young lady whom, at a friend’s wedding that year, I was arranging flowers with. Yes, that’s right. I got roped into arranging flowers at a friend’s wedding. It was awesome and possibly my favourite wedding experience ever. Also I have a flower-arranging buddy. That part is pretty cool too.

The game is called Life is Strange. It was released today, a fact I discovered yesterday, caved and bought the whole thing on Steam. It’s a five-part episodic videogame created by Dontnod Entertainment that focuses on eighteen year old girl Max Caulfield (who bears striking resemblance to my awesome flower-arranging buddy). Max is a student at the prestigious Blackwell Academy in her hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon, a place she had long since escaped. One day, in her beloved photography class, she discovers the most curious thing.

She can rewind time.

There’s the hook. My housemate is a big fan of TellTale games, I’ve watched him play The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us and I’ve dabbled in the latter myself. Need to dabble some more I suspect. Of course, these are games driven by player choice and build the action of the next act from the consequences of the player’s actions. What Life is Strange offers is the chance to rewind, test the waters and see where you want to go from there.

Naturally, there’s a limit to how far you can rewind time. You have to make a choice and stick with it. But it is interesting to experiment with where those choices can take you, then make a decision, rather than having to make the split-second determination.

Time travel. Check. Next up for what draws me to this game? Visual style. It’s beautiful. Thanks to Max’s penchant for photography, a defining characteristic that no doubt has huge parts to play in the upcoming action, there’s a lot of emphasis on visuals. And boy are they something to behold. Plus, Max doesn’t have a half-bad eye for a good shot – or at least, the developers made sure the right opportunities were open to her.

The other, slightly more curious, draw for me is the teen angst/teen drama aspect of the game. Underlying the main plot are the subtle intricacies of a high school student’s life. The social pitfalls, befriend this guy, snub that girl, help them out or let them suffer. I am sure the developers have figured some way into making all fit into the overarching plot and have all those neat little consequences too, but as a kind of side-quest kick, I like it.
Episode two of Life is Strange is due in March. Between now and then, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunity to replay it and have fun playing with the laws of time.

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