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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Review: Life is Strange - True Colors

 I kept intending to play Life is Strange: True Colors, but what tipped me over was seeing it at the library and checking it out. It took me 2 renewals to finish it, but it was a good story. Here's the thing about the Life is Strange series - it's not a video game so much as it is a short form TV show. Each episode is about 2 hours or so, and while you get a few choices here and there, the narrative is mostly linear --- you don't actually have any effect on major outcomes. The hallmarks of the series are the story, the characters, and the music.

What's exciting about this particular instantiation is that it features a female Asian protagonist. Even better, Alex Chen doesn't come from the depiction of the model minority background --- her family was broken up when she was young, and she's been through a series of orphanages and foster care with a history of fighting and anger. She starts the story having been through that phase of her life and arriving at the mountain town of Haven on invitation from her brother, whom she hasn't seen for years. The fresh start ends in tragedy and the story launches.

Unlike the original Life is Strange, True Colors eschews any real puzzles. Alex Chen does have a super power --- and I love it that her super power is empathy --- she can use it to understand how others are thinking and seeing the world, or relive moments trapped in objects. Each episode revolves around a single event, and as each episode proceeds she has chances to help other people or bypass them. It's not necessarily clear for each decision what the outcome will be, and in some ways I was surprised by the support or lack of support from various characters in the climax --- which is a good thing! The final episode was by far the weakest --- the ending is inevitable no matter what you choose, but that's to be expected.

Overall, the writing is good --- the characters ring true, and your choices are fun. It's not as good as the original Life is Strange game, but it's still worth your time.

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