When Alex Chen reunites with her brother in the mining village of Haven, her psychic power of empathy becomes a catalyst for change. What secrets will she uncover and is her power ultimately a blessing or a curse?
True Colors introduces a new cast of characters and setting in this latest Life is Strange sequel. Alex and Gabe Chen are siblings who have gone through orphanages and foster homes during their youth. Gabe has settled in the mountain town of Haven where he has started to build a life for himself and at the start of our story, Alex has just arrived to meet him and see what the town has to offer. Alex spent a lot of her life in therapy where people tried to help her deal with her emotions but she isn't a typical patient as when she's near someone experiencing a strong emotion, she can see an aura around them and their emotions start to manifest inside of her. This has gotten Alex into trouble in the past but throughout the story of True Colors, you'll see how her power can also be used to help people.
With the main characters being out of high school and starting their lives, it's nice to see a story that's on the more mature side in True Colors. In the first chapter, an event occurs that sets things in motion for the rest of the plot and seeing how every character who's affected by the event deals with it feels natural and even led me to develop some empathy for them on my own. One particular moment when a mother admits that she's mad at her son felt very raw and was difficult to watch and when contrasted with a reflective moment of happiness shared between 2 other characters, you can tell that you'll witness a whole spectrum of emotions as you play. I should also mention that if you feel like True Colors isn't really going anywhere by chapter 3 other than exploring empathy (like I did), be patient because things take a turn and you'll end up experiencing one of the most interesting chapters in any Life is Strange game to date.
Life is Strange: True Colors is 5 chapters long and the majority of scenes take place somewhere on Haven's main street. It's a very small area with only 4 buildings that can be explored. The flower-filled street itself is quaint and the mountainous backdrop paired with a lake is very pretty to look at but the small scope is a little disappointing. As you walk around, you'll come across NPCs that can be interacted with, giving you the option of influencing their lives by using your power of empathy to detect their worries and help them out. These interactions have minor consequences in the unfolding story so it doesn't make a big difference if you ignore them as you walk by.
In contrast, there are quite a few interactive items around the town with some giving off an aura which allows you to unlock a memory that may open up a new conversation point with a character so you can learn more about them. This fills up your journal which can be read extensively or completely ignored; it's entirely up to you. The same can be said for your phone where you can read messages from townsfolk which serves to add more colour but isn't actually necessary to get through the story. There are 6 possible endings to unlock which encourages exploration and replayability but it would have been nice to see the journal and phone play more of a role in building relationships, making choices, and solving the mystery around chapter 1's events. I also wish the mystery-solving was more involving but instead, I discovered new information all at once instead of performing my own sleuthing while suspense built.
One particular part of Life is Strange: True Colors that I enjoyed is in chapter 3 where the whole town joins in on a big LARP. Steph gets everyone involved by assigning characters, making a bestiary, planting scrolls and spells, and hiding gems for young Ethan to find with the help of Alex. In some portions, it becomes a turn-based RPG where you fight townsfolk dressed up as monsters and the final battle actually takes Alex into Ethan's mind while showing how a child is experiencing the day in his imagination. The portions where you see the world through Ethan's eyes are definitely some of my favourites because it brings you back to when you were a kid and saw the world differently. In fact, I think I would thoroughly enjoy playing a full Life is Strange game with this premise in place throughout.
The voice acting in Life is Strange: True Colors is done well and there are some relaxing spots where you can sit and listen to the sounds of nature. The graphics are generally standard for a modern Life is Strange title with some welcome detail added, particularly in the nature around the park and the flowery bridge. However, True Colors still suffers from the same problem of plastic-looking hair on the characters. The devs just can't seem to get it right and it makes some scenes look like LEGO Minifigures talking to each other including one segment where a character's hair even changed completely from brown to blonde and it was so jarring that it pulled me out of the scene.
I also experienced a smattering of glitches such as Alex suddenly standing with her arms out then snapping back to her proper position, music playing loudly for too long (I'm certain it wasn't supposed to follow me and play over my conversations at that point), and finally, it crashed once while I was exploring a shop. Thankfully, these issues aren't constant but when you're playing such an emotionally-tolling game, it's very easy to have these issues ruin the atmosphere. There will be a day one patch that I hope fixes some of these bugs.
A couple of welcome additions to the gameplay of Life is Strange: True Colors take the form of arcade games which can be found in the bar. Taito's classic Arkanoid is one of them and the other is a game made just for True Colors which is fittingly named Mine Haunt. These are fun little distractions to spend some time with and an excuse to take a break from all the heavily emotional empathy.
Life is Strange: True Colors presents a tale of empathy as you witness a town struggle to deal with a tragic event. I enjoyed my time in Haven, especially when seeing the world through the eyes of different characters and the ending presented an interesting twist. However, it's all over quickly and the mystery-solving portion is lackluster but it's an ultimately rewarding experience.
- + Jumping into other people's emotional states makes for interesting story-telling
- + Final chapter presents a great twist
- + The LARP chapter is especially fun
- - Graphics and audio issues sometimes ruin the otherwise emotional experience
- - The explorable world is very small
- - Solving the mystery could be more hands-on