Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time – Review

Title   Life Is Strange: Episode 2 - Out of Time
Developer  DONTNOD Entertainment
Publisher  Square Enix
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Adventure
Release Date  March 24, 2015
Official Site

If you haven’t either played Episode 1 or read my review of it, I’d recommend you do so before reading this as I’ll be assuming some assumptions and spoiling some spoilers. With that out the way, Episode 2…

Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time begins more or less where the first episode left off, with Arcadia Bay residents being very confused about the freak snowstorm the previous day and Max having spent all night reading up on quantum physics in an attempt to understand her time-manipulating powers (as you would). The episode follows two distinct story threads that cross over at various points without ever really becoming too tightly intertwined.

Chloe wants proof that Max can control time and so has her complete a series of tests which manifest themselves as memorisation puzzles, which are simple enough but can get a little laboured if you’re not paying close enough attention. Once she’s satisfied that you’re not making it all up she does what any teenager who discovers their friend has superpowers would do and insists you spend the day dicking about with time. Also she makes you complete a literal fetch quest for no apparent reason other than her being lazy and wanting to drink beer.

Meanwhile, one of your classmates, Kate Marsh, is struggling to deal with a video of her in a compromising position being circulated around Blackwell Academy; it’s actually very well handled (though technically suspect) and gets pretty dark in places. It had me really torn between trying to help Kate out, despite not really knowing much about her, and trying to appease Chloe’s increasingly childish pleas for attention. I’d like to talk about it more but that’ll have to wait for next episode’s review so I don’t spoil too much before people have played it.

Still ticking over in the background are the disappearance of Rachel Amber, Chloe’s step-dad taking creepy photos of the students, Victoria and her friends being shallow and vindictive, Nathan Prescott being an irredeemable dickbag, the increasingly awkward will they/won’t they relationship between Max and Warren, and the mystery of why Blackwell only appears to have two teachers, despite having a full timetable of classes.

Max’s use of her time-rewinding powers is starting to have a negative effect on her, but it’s one that only manifests when the plot requires it; I can understand why but does feel a little forced when it happens at the end without the previously-established justification. Also, it’s starting to annoy me when you can clearly see the solution to a puzzle but you’re not allowed to do it until you’ve failed the first time and rewound – I’ve spilt a lot of unnecessary liquids reviewing this game.

Speaking of the end, it’s difficult to discuss without spoiling things, so I’ll limit myself to saying that I think they did a good job of making it impactful and taking your past actions into consideration but, in doing so, did create a few jarring cuts where you can see they’ve inserted some dialogue that only plays if you’ve done X or Y at some point. Based on the end-of-episode stats it seems to be a fairly even split between the two possible outcomes and I suspect that’s largely because it’s not entirely your decision what happens – something that some people will doubtless complain about but I liked; always having a free choice between A, B, and C removes a lot of the drama.

There weren’t a lot of callbacks to decisions you made in the first episode, but when they happened they did a good job of making it feel like your decision actually meant something, rather than falling into the typical “Wow, I can’t believe you helped/didn’t help that guy (delete as applicable)” style that so many games claiming to empower the player to make decisions do. I will be very interested to see how much the end of episode two plays into the rest of the series, as it has the potential to substantially impact future events, but it’s also possible they could just sweep it into the background and try to carry on as if you hadn’t been involved – I think that would be a big mistake.

Beyond the story, how well have they done in addressing my concerns from the first episode? Well, the main characters’ voice acting has improved somewhat, but a lot of the minor players are still pretty ropey and the dialogue still veers from genuinely believable and touching to the un-ironic use of “amazeballs” in conversation at a moment’s notice. It’s hella irritating. The music hasn’t changed, still airy guitar-indie, but it’s inoffensive enough and actually fits much better with the mood of this episode than the last.

One slight annoyance, which was present last time but became more noticeable in this episode, is that you can’t skip cutscenes or dialogue first time around, only after a rewind, and this applies to additional save slots as well. This means that if you want to do a second or third playthrough you can’t skip any of the sequences, and there are a couple that are a minute or two long with no interaction that, while enjoyable the first time, rapidly become tedious.

The future looks pretty bright for Life is Strange, which is more than can be said for the inhabitants of its world, with Out of Time continuing to bring an engaging storyline with likeable characters and some genuinely difficult decisions. There’s an opportunity for them to drop the ball in a big way if they mishandle how the final events of this episode play into next month’s installment – titled Chaos Theory – but I’m optimistic that they can pull it off.

  • Solid continuation of episode one
  • Well-written story with characters you care about
  • Time rewinding still makes you agonise over decisions
  • Dialogue and voice acting still pretty shonky
  • A fetch quest
  • Unskippable cutscenes

Out of Time is mostly more of the same; if you liked the first episode then you're probably going to like this one. If you've been on the fence about buying the game know that they've made a solid start, and even if parts three to five turn out to be terrible I'd be happy that I've already got my money's worth.

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