In early 2015, DONTNOD Entertainment introduced Life is Strange, a story rich graphic adventure featuring a teenage girl wielding the power to rewind time. The tale explored relatable emotions trapped within the teenage mind and surreal, yet shocking, plot twists. Such features awarded the episodic adventure with glowing reviews and a booming fan base. Life is Strange 2 exhibits the same interactive gameplay, but shines a light on modern social topics rather than just embellishing high school drama. Don’t get me wrong, the teenage angst definitely exists in Life is Strange 2, but the story is deeper than a couple of spoiled bullies.
DONTNOD Entertainment kicks off their second installment in the Life is Strange franchise by introducing Sean Diaz, a sixteen-year-old high school student walking home alongside his best friend, Lyla. Sean’s story commences without a whole lot of wiggle room gameplay wise, but rather a preliminary scene between two friends utilizing contemporary lingo to plan their Halloween shenanigans. Sean is tasked with gathering munchies, booze, and anything else a party entails, giving players a bit of leeway on what to seize for the party. Chips or cookies? Soda or beer?
Shortly after, banter transpires between Sean, his brother Daniel, and their seemingly-hip dad. You aren’t brought up to speed about their mother. By how Sean talks about her, it’s a touchy topic. After the family rendezvous, guiding Sean around the house from a third-person perspective achieves a general feel of how to interact with the environment. Listening in on Sean’s commentary as he inspects objects around the house provides a laidback introductory course on the gameplay. The general atmosphere feels a bit sluggish, but not for very long.
Exploring Sean’s inventory provides some background information on our protagonist. His sketchbook basically mirrors a journal embedded with comprehensive doodles. Not to mention, scrolling through his inbox exposes what you’d expect from a typical teen’s string of messages between his friends. The detail that went into structuring a solid personality shapes Sean into an identifiable character. By integrating these minor specifics, Life is Strange 2 makes you feel for the Diaz brothers and their hardships. It’s the little things that matter, folks. Such little things even tie the first game's fictional town of Arcadia Bay into the boys' escapade. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it.
Now if you’ve ever delved into the first Life is Strange, you’ll recall that your choices affect future events. Life is Strange 2 follows the same pattern. Some decisions are insignificant and hardly impact the story while others are consequential. Soon after meandering around the house, an attempt is made to defend Daniel against their neighbor’s bullying. Sean’s first empowering moment comes to light, forcing the player to make a tough decision. Such instances are made clear as day, but the right thing to do isn’t always as evident. Regardless of your choice (no spoilers), Sean and Daniel are forced to leave home after a harrowing and supernatural experience. Thus initiates their rollercoaster journey to Mexico in hopes to escape their past back in Seattle.
Life is Strange 2 overflows with character choice. At times, interacting with an object or even another person presents options that leave repercussions on Daniel’s disposition. A good example stems from arriving at a gas station in hopes of attaining food and camping supplies. Sean and Daniel have hardly eaten. Therefore, Sean can force Daniel to beg for scraps from a family dining at a picnic table. How Sean behaves in even everyday humdrum situations impacts how Daniel views the world. Even if your judgments appear to have no effect, Daniel looks up to Sean and observes his every move.
As previously mentioned, social and controversial views push some boundaries in Life is Strange 2. However, such assessments prove relevant all the same. It's no doubt that DONTNOD touches base with our two main characters being a minority. To me, the prejudice was a little over the top in a couple of scenes. In retrospect, I believe DONTNOD does a great job leaving a lot of the societal measures up for interpretation. To be honest, you kind of have to accept that there are some argumentative undertones. However, you needn’t take them to heart.
At one moment in particular, the racism factor feels too overdone and bluntly emphasized. When Sean and Daniel are shopping for supplies at the gas station, the option to steal items opens up as a choice. Because I’m just too honest of a person, I paid for everything I put in my basket, fair and square. Nevertheless, the owner of the station (who just so happens to be an older white male) antagonizes Sean. He then proceeds to accuse him of shoplifting, declares he's a thug, and kidnaps him. No matter how Sean reacts in this confrontation, he loses the battle.
Aside from the sensitive topics depicted in Life is Strange 2, the character development displayed in both characters thrives as the first episode progresses. Sean is only sixteen years old, but by the end of the first episode, his growth becomes visible as he recognizes he must carry on for his little brother. Daniel, on the other hand, appears to possess a supernatural power, but its nature is unknown. The soundtrack complements each and every moment that Sean and Daniel experience. The Life is Strange games are well-known for their expressive melodies. You'll discover that Life is Strange 2 is no different.
Even though Life is Strange 2's start lacks excitement, the tale improves as Sean and Daniel adventure out into the world. Not only do you immerse yourself in the story, but you grow an emotional attachment to the Diaz brothers. Sean's devotion to protecting Daniel from the pain he feels captivates the player in a way that will make your heart hurt for him. Sure, there are moments where discrimination may go too far. Be that as it may, DONTNOD doesn't shy from shining a light on modern disputes happening all around us on a daily basis. The mature atmosphere is distinctive compared to the original Life is Strange, but in a way that's more relatable. With room to grow, Life is Strange 2 could fabricate into a remarkable experience. Despite its minor flaws, the introduction was nothing short of promising.
Life is Strange 2 excels on many levels but also has its evident flaws. Following the Diaz brothers through traumatic and unnecessary events will have you empathizing with their circumstances. However, Daniel's supernatural powers are a whole other conundrum.
- Immersive Story
- Relatable Characters
- Amazing Soundtrack
- Mature Environment
- Slow Beginning
- At Times Too Controversial