After baiting us hook, line and sinker with the first episode of their new IP, Life is Strange, DONTNOD Entertainment has returned with the game’s sophomore instalment. Though, while its predecessor excelled at its job of making us become invested in the life of time rewinding high school student, Max Caulfield, this follow-up suffers from uneven pacing and some forgettable moments. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but to suggest that it’s merely a decent but disappointing step backwards for what may still end up being an episodic masterpiece if everything ends up coming together well.
Life is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time deals with some heavy themes and has its moments, but there are quite a few lulls in-between the good stuff. What it does do relatively well, though, is push the story forward by setting things up for future instalments.
Things begin back in the girls’ dormitory, where Max is sleeping during what seems to be a quiet morning. As the player, we’re responsible for getting our teenaged protagonist out of bed, mulling around her room doing chores (checking emails and watering a plant if we’d like), and then going for a shower. However, while the path to the showers is set in stone as a story-based objective, which prompts an important cutscene, it’s possible to take one’s time and explore the lives of the other girls at Blackwater Academy. And, by doing so, you’ll get an early hint at one of Out of Time‘s major plot points, that being a viral video featuring a religious and wholly unassuming female friend of Max’s. Not one of the happy, lucrative and impressive variety, however; one that shows her setting a “tongue record” with a group of boys.
A good amount of your time spent with this two hour-long episode will be focused on deciding to either help or hinder your friend’s suffering, as something doesn’t seem right. That said, this is still a game about Max reuniting with her best friend, Chloe, and the two searching for Chloe’s good friend Rachel Amber, who’s been missing for an unsettling amount of time. As such, the two spend quite a bit of screen time together, as Chloe takes her old pal on a scenic trip to two of her favourite Arcadia Bay, Oregon destinations.
While Life is Strange‘s time rewind mechanic was introduced last time around, it’s further proven here, with Chloe being an excited and question-filled witness. The girls’ curiosity and joie de vivre ends up getting them in trouble, though, creating the chance for some serious consequences. We’re also treated to a rather shocking ending, which comes with its own surprise that deals with Max’s health.
During all of these events, the talk of the town is centred on weather. You see, despite its location and the fact that it’s never seen snow, beautiful Arcadia Bay bore witness to some of the white and fluffy stuff a day or so before the onset of Out of Time. It’s not the only strange weather phenomena to hit the area, though, and as we all know, it seems like a gigantic tornado may be en route for its western coastline.
Remember that what you say and do matters, like it does in Telltale’s games. Of course, the nice thing is that Life is Strange allows its players to rewind time in order to change their decisions. That’s something I’ve admittedly taken advantage of a few times, though it’s more fun to try to play things smart and avoid having to do do-overs. Some may prefer to see every option unfold before coming to an absolute decision, though, and there’s nothing wrong with that since it’s allowed and even encouraged.
Hell, even choosing to water the plant brings up a prompt that says it’ll have consequences, though certainly not negative ones I’d imagine. It’s far from an important choice, though, because those are reserved for the struggle at hand. Things like deciding whether to help a friend in need or stay out of potential trouble, choosing to continue on with the armed-in-school allegations that you may have levied against wealthy Nathan Prescott, and more. Don’t take these opportunities to shape the game lightly, because they may come back to haunt you.
I won’t spend a lot of time talking about Out of Time‘s mechanics and visuals, because if you’ve played the first episode (which you should’ve if you’re reading this review), then you know what to expect. Life is Strange is a beautiful game, which is comprised of detailed and believable characters, impressively shot settings and a great sense of atmosphere. It’s also a new take on a traditional point-and-click adventure game, wherein the player must find clues, solve basic puzzles and direct conversations toward a determined goal. That description may make it sound boring, but that certainly isn’t the case, outside of the occasional lulls that mar this particular romp.
The important thing, though, is to not expect the world of this sophomore effort. Its job is to follow a fantastic hook, and it’s used more as a way to build a potentially great storyline than anything else. It certainly has its moments, and serves its purpose pretty well, though it ultimately fails to reach the incredibly high bar set by its predecessor.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
With Life is Strange: Episode 2 - Out of Time, developer DONTNOD Entertainment has lessened the wow factor and upped its focus on development. Through this, some pacing issues are created, though the final product remains decent and has a few memorable moments up its sleeve.