The squirrels and the birds come
I just finished episode two of Life is Strange, and I’ve spiraled down a playlist of Ben Folds songs. Out of Time is Kate Marsh’s story, but “Kate” is too cheerful; this tale isn’t about daisies, dandelions, and butterflies. The weighty subject material is more in line with the hopelessness that defines “Carrying Cathy,” but alas, that’s a different name, although not far off.
That being said, Out of Time does what episode one couldn’t: it makes the audience care about character arcs other than main protagonist Max’s. After a Max-centric first chapter, it’s the other citizens of Arcadia Bay who get a share of the spotlight. We’re given some quiet moments with Chloe to begin to understand her struggle. We’re introduced to Chloe’s mother, who may be the most reasonable and believable character in Life is Strange. Andof course, we grieve with Kate as her entire world turns against her.
Life is Strange: Out of Time (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One[reviewed])
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: March 24, 2015
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)
This is a tremendous step in world-building, but Dontnod did too little with the time it had in this chapter. Episode two spends entirely too long plodding about and convincing others that, yes, Max’s time-rewinding powers really do exist. Despite so much screen-time given to Max and Chloe, neither Max’s personal narrative nor the relationship between the two was advanced significantly from the foundation laid in episode one. Major pacing issues plague most of this installment.
While the tempo has problems, Life is Strange has no difficulty reaching incredible crescendos at the drop of a hat. These are the moments that will surely make a long-lasting impression. The final act of Out of Time holds an encounter that almost the entire episode builds toward. When it happens, it’s tough to swallow the raw emotion of it all, regardless of which outcome you’re saddled with.
But, those type of pinnacles wouldn’t pierce so strongly if they weren’t slowly built upon. Small interactions accumulate as puzzles are pieced together across multiple sources. Out of Time deals heavily with subjects such as drugs, sexual abuse, and debilitating depression. That’d be daunting enough in its own right, but the player’s given perspective of both the victim and those who are maliciously perpetuating the gossip. It’s tough to stand by and watch someone that down and out, but it’s heart-wrenching to see them relentlessly bullied.
Out of Time‘s lasting mark will be that it’s the episode where choices begin to actually matter. Those aforesaid peaks in action come to a head eventually, and many decisions made (no matter how seemingly innocuous they may have been) act as the winds of change that could very well trigger a maelstrom. There’s just too much gray area between good and bad for everyone’s arc to have a pleasant conclusion. Dontnod has done well so far to not telegraph a clear-cut route to achieving a desirable outcome.
While Out of Time has a tendency to meander (like Max herself), it hits hard in its critical moments. This episode succeeds in that it’s adept at creating sincere concern for most of the inhabitants of Life is Strange. That depth is appreciated, but Out of Time felt like a giant step to the side, as we aren’t much further along than we were at the end of episode one.