ife is Strange captures the feeling of being in high school again, of walking back onto the school yard at the start of a new year during a crisp fall day, with the promise of new beginnings. But, you realize, high school never changes, and you’re confronted with the harsh reality of sterile hallways that reek of cleaning supplies, apathetic authority figures that just want to keep you in line, and school bullies that pick on you for that small morsel of homeroom clout.
Best Games Played 2016
These games and awards were decided during the Wardcast’s Best Games Played 2016 episode, where we considered any and all games played by the members of the Wardcast in 2016, even if they weren’t released that calendar year.
You play as Maxine Caulfield, a newly minted transfer student of Blackwell Academy, a private high school in her childhood hometown of Arcadia Bay, Oregon. Years ago, Maxine’s family moved away to Seattle, forcing her to pretty much abandon her life, including her childhood best friend, Chloe. And now that she’s back, she’s left to confront the pieces of her former self.
But sometimes it’s easier to just hide in the bathroom, which is what she does after a particularly difficult art class, leading to her witnessing a confrontation between Chloe and another classmate. The confrontation goes sideways: he draws a gun, fatally shooting Chloe, and in that moment where she collapses to the ground, Max loses herself and finds out that she can somehow reverse time.
Using it to prevent Chloe’s death, she teams up with her old friend to understand her powers and herself. Over the course of this episodic series, Max and Chloe try to understand issues that plague the people of Arcadia Bay, from the fantastic — a premonition of a town-destroying storm — to the grounded — subplots of a missing classmate and topics of child abuse, mental illness, suicide, and bullying.
And as the game unfolds, you realize that amazing time control powers are really just a vehicle for Max to better understand herself as she becomes an adult. Magical powers as a metaphor for puberty is nothing new — Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, His Dark Materials, and many more young adult franchises all trade in this — but for Max, there’s no prophecy, no predetermined fate, no hero’s journey for her to embark on. Even if you’re a high schooler with power over the spacetime continuum, at the end of the day, you’re still a high schooler.
And there’s power in that truth. There’s power not in finding the strength in the fantastic, but in finding the strength in the everyday.
Because in Life is Strange, the most important choices you and Max have to make come with real, life-altering consequences, and no amount of magical superpowers will make it any easier, only your head, your heart, and your friends will.