Value Bin Gaming: Life Is Strange – A Multisensory Storytelling Experience

Video games can be expensive, with the latest games on the latest systems coming out at $100 or more. For most people, that’s a huge investment, especially if the game proves to be a disappointment.  To help with this challenge, the Downsview Advocate introduces a periodic column, Value Bin Gaming, where we highlight the gems in the rough of the video game world.

We want to help you play amazing games without setting your wallet on fire! Whether you like to play your video games on Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft consoles, or prefer the control and finesse of a keyboard and mouse for PC gaming, our goal is to bring you the most the gaming art form has to offer at the best bang for your buck.

In this issue we review Life Is Strange, a multisensory interactive storytelling experience originally released over a 10 month period in 2015 as 5 episodes via digital download on Sony (Playstation 3 & 4), Microsoft (Xbox 360 & One), and Steam (PC, Mac, & Linux) online stores. The complete game is now available on a single disc for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.  The game is rated M, recommended for those aged 17 and older.  Since its release it has sold over a million copies and has been nominated for and won numerous video game industry awards including Games for Change’s, Game of the Year and Most Significant Impact awards for 2016.

Life Is Strange sets itself apart with its focus on immersive storytelling.  Developers at Dontnod Entertainment invested heavily in the writing and voice acting from day one.  The result is a life-like, relatable, female protagonist whose decisions, guided by the player, determine how the story unfolds.

Whereas most games relegate women to the stereotypical role of damsel in distress to be rescued by the brash young warrior (or plumber in the case of Super Mario Bros.), heroine Maxine Caulfield, voiced by actress and folk singer Hannal Telle, is at once strong and vulnerable, capable and uncertain—unusually and delightfully human.  As she comes of age in a big and harsh world, she discovers that she has power over the flow of time and unfolding of events.

As the player guides Max through puzzles in the changing environment, an indie folk music soundtrack scored by Jonathan Morali sets the mood, deepening immersion and magnifying the emotions of the characters.  As with many of the games published by Square-Enix, including the Final Fantasy series, the soundtrack is so good it could be enjoyed on its own, sending the listener’s imagination soaring.

The life-like graphics of the game, built with Unreal Engine 3, showcase the power of latest generation gaming consoles yet it still looks excellent on older computers with mid-range video cards.  The artwork lends itself well to the sometimes dream-like aspect of the game’s story and its focus on photography as a plot element.

Best of all, the first episode of Life Is Strange is available for free on all platforms via their respective digital stores! You don’t have to take my word for it that this game is worth your time—Try it out for free and see!  If you find yourself hooked after the first episode, the complete game can be purchased for less than $10 on most digital platforms. The disc version can be purchased at most video game stores for less than $20 on Xbox One and PS4.  Don’t mistake the low price for poor quality.  Rumours online suggest that a television series based on the game is in development, which may explain the publisher’s choice to keep the low price of this excellent game to further build its popularity and increase viewership when the series is released.  We can’t wait!

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