I admit, it took me months to play this game.
Released in September 2018 after a stream of promotional and gameplay trailers, Life Is Strange 2 had me feeling a little underwhelmed.
Earlier this year (regarding the Life Is Strange Prequel) I had wrote that we don’t often get to say goodbye in games these days, and that I wished I never had to. I found I was eating my words with this new release.
The dialogue between characters seemed lacking. An adult’s stunted attempt at writing a male teenager, and the trailers never inspired much interest. The supernatural power briefly hinted at in the trailer did little to pique my interest, and it’s taken until now for me to pick up my pre-order and sit down to play.
I was pleasantly surprised.
While the game does feature a monotonous mini-game and seems to take a while to get anywhere, it more than makes up for it in content. The game does an exceptional job of tying in real world current events.
You play as Sean; a teenager whose biggest problem is how he’s going to spend time with the girl he likes. Starting the game off with cringey dialogue between him and his best friend, Lyla, the game series does what it does best and lulls you into a false sense of security.
There is an underlying theme of racism from the beginning, and the game quickly forces you to think about deeper issues when a police officer with a twitchy trigger finger reacts badly to a fight between teenagers. The boy’s father is caught by the bullet, and the strength of Daniel’s reaction sees his telekinetic powers come into effect. The officer is killed himself and Sean has to react quickly to the disaster and put aside his loss to get his brother to safety.
Sean and Daniel are now on the run and Sean must find a way for them to survive on the road.
Each decision the player makes impacts the game in a small way, meaning that the characters can take a different path later on or be affected immediately by your choices. These can be small things, such as whether or not Daniel falls into mud, or larger personality defining traits later on.
The game is dialogue heavy and the groans that came at the beginning of the game are less as we watch the two boys interact. While the cringe factor is something that had previously added to the appeal of the games (somewhat), you find the conversations between the boys are almost natural. A teenager trying to talk fantasy with his younger brother and keep him happy and safe is of course going to be littered with cheesy lines and more pep than necessary.
It’s almost easy to forget that the disaster at the beginning of the game is something that’s going to seriously impact the boys. Watching Sean try to create a new world for Daniel and keep him safe as they camp in a nature reserve is an almost pleasant consequence.
But this is Life Is Strange, and nothing stays safe, or calm, for long.
Amidst a confusing altercation which finds Sean locked in the back room of a shop, racism rears its ugly head once more. It seems the real antagonist is racism itself – would any of this have happened had there not been prejudice? Would Sean and Daniel really have had to run?
Luckily, the boys have made a friend on their journey and after working together to free Sean they find themselves really able to relax for the first time. A warm car and a kind stranger means that the pair are able to travel far away from their past. New family member, a puppy named Mushroom that Daniel ‘rescued’ from the store, is along for the ride.
The stranger’s kindness doesn’t stop there – he gives each boy a parting gift, pays for a motel room for the night and gives them enough money for a bus ticket. Sean wants to travel to Mexico and visit a town their father dreamed of returning to.
This brief and well-deserved respite, once again, does not last long. The developers have been rather cruel here, having the boys watch TV and dance together (should you choose) before Sean tries to address the issue of their father’s death.
But the opportunity is taken from him – Daniel’s telekinesis returns when he sees a news bulletin about his father’s death. He is devastated, and furious. His brother lied to him and his father is dead.
The game gives one final choice here before closing – do you promise never to lie again?
Your choice may come back to haunt you in the next chapter.