If you just can't get enough teen angst in your video games, Life is Strange is back to deliver another emotional story.
In the original Life is Strange, we saw Max reunite with her childhood pal Chloe. The story remained close to home in Arcadia Bay, Oregon and explored local crimes. In Life is Strange 2, we follow siblings Sean and Daniel Diaz as they trek from Seattle to Mexico after a terrible event happens in their home that sends them on a journey to escape law enforcement. The Diaz brothers have a typical sibling relationship with quite a few years between them. At the start of the story, Sean can't help but complain about Daniel but by the end, the transpired events have clearly brought them much closer together.
Their journey begins on foot as they walk through the woods of Oregon and things take a turn for the worse when they come across some very unfriendly convenience store workers that don't take kindly to "immigrants". Of course, the brothers aren't immigrants but the theme of xenophobia is just one of the difficult topics that are explored in Life is Strange 2 along with police brutality, drugs, cults, and abandonment. It's impressive how much is covered through the 5 part series and it's all done rather tastefully so it makes you feel for what people from all walks of life can go through.
On their journey south, the boys encounter a group of hippies who live in tents and grow marijuana plants for a dangerous man, their grandparents who can't get over their daughter's neglect, a travelling journalist who helps them out for nothing in return, church leaders who exploit Daniel, and many run-ins with the cops. They walk, drive, and travel by train to get to their next destination while stopping when they can and leaving as soon as the police show up. They also spend a little time with Captain Spirit, a kid who starred in the teaser game "The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit" which released last year. All of this travelling forces the brothers to grow up very quickly which can even be seen via physical changes to their appearances. In the end, Dontnod did a great job of taking the Life is Strange formula and applying it to a much larger scale to build a story that's full of interesting characters, places, and events.
In the original Life is Strange, the main character had the power to rewind time. Here, the younger brother Daniel has the power to move objects. It starts out with just small things but as he trains, he learns to move much larger objects. You can't move any object that you want, though, as you're limited to story sequences and the odd icon which indicates that something is movable. I would have liked to see this ability take the center stage more in order to liven up the gameplay but then it would have taken away from the story. If you're only playing these games for the story, maybe that's a good thing but the constant talking can become dull, especially when Sean is being overly emotional. Maybe if Sean had the power to move things, he could let out some of his teen angst.
The overall gameplay is limited to watching conversations, walking around and looking at items, drawing in your sketchbook (which is just wiggling the analogue stick), and making choices. There are many choices to be made from small inconsequential ones to important ones that ultimately influence which of the 7 endings you will see. Do you want to contact your friend even though the cops might be listening, accept help from others when you're in need, or do everything you can to prevent Daniel from having to use his power in public? It's fun being able to see what other players chose when you're done a chapter which adds a sense of community.
Life is Strange 2's visuals are an improvement and provide more realism in the characters and their surroundings. It remains on the cartoony side but there's a good level of detail. Having said that, there were plenty of moments when characters' hair looked strange like it was a plastic wig. Anyway, the voice acting is top-notch and the soundtrack is on par with the other games' mellow indie rock.
Life is Strange 2 takes the familiar formula and delivers it on a grander scale while tackling difficult topics across the USA. If you're playing it for the story, you won't be disappointed but don't expect much from the gameplay.
- + Nice graphical upgrade from the first game
- + Large variety of characters and places
- + Many difficult topics are handled through genuinely touching stories
- - Gameplay has many missed opportunities
- - Dialogue tends to go on for too long
- - Sean can be overly dramatic at times