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Oregon, Home: Life Is Strange

Inevitably, the quotes from critics that punctuate the first trailer for Life is Strange contain references to Gone Home. Telltale comparisons might seem more valid given that Life is Strange is an episodic adventure about drama and decision-making rather than puzzling, pointing and clicking, and the floating quotes dutifully invoke The Walking Dead. But there’s some teen angst on display as well in this tale of a photography student returning to her hometown. It’s a hometown packed with melancholy and mystery, naturally, and the plot suggests there might be a touch of Veronica Mars to throw in with other apparent influences. Oh – and the main character can rewind time, obviously.

I’m very much on board with the Telltale episodic model, with its emphasis on character, dialogue and plot over puzzling and inventory fiddling. It’s an alternative to traditional adventure games that bears little resemblance to them and might not even be associated at all if Telltale’s early games hadn’t been a) based on actual Lucasarts games b) full of rubbish puzzles. I’m not suggesting that all adventure game puzzles are rubbish – far from it – but Telltale’s were, on the whole.

But episodic dramas, thrillers and sitcoms are a good thing, with interactive moments to prod the characters into particular shapes. I wasn’t particularly excited about Life Is Strange before this trailer, having found the studio’s previous title Remember Me far from memorable, but I enjoy seeing realistic locations in games. Rather than space stations and secret government headquarters, these are the kind of places that we’re all very familiar with – schools, teenagers’ bedrooms, ladies’ toilets – and that’s a pleasant change.

Of course, there’s all that time rewinding to stop this from becoming too real. Life is Strange, after all. I suspect it’ll mostly be used to show that an attempt to erase the unintended consequences of an action might cause ripples of causality that mean your pet dog is now a piece of toast, or something similarly upsetting. The main plot is about a friend who has lost a parent, another friend who has gone missing under “suspicious circumstances” and a journey into the city’s hidden secrets.

It’s good to see DONTNOD exploring a world of their own creation on what I presume are their own terms. The praise I heard for Remember Me tended to be concentrated on the quality of the environments and elements of the narrative.

I think it looks ace and we’ll know whether my excitement is misplaced soon enough – Episode One is out on January 30th. It’s £3.99 as a standalone, or you can pay £15.99 for the complete season. If you decide to buy the first episode on its own and enjoy it, the remaining four can be yours for £13.99.

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