Review: 'Life Is Strange' Episode 2 Cranks Up the Tension

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Screenshot

Episode One of Life Is Strange left players in a peaceful setting, and though Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out Of Time begins much the same way, things become increasingly tense, culminating in a scene that leaves players standing on a dangerous precipice. The game's website describes Life Is Strange's intent to "revolutionise [sic] story based choice and consequence games," and while it may not have succeeded yet, the consequences of earlier decisions do play a strong role in the game's second installment.

Life Is Strange: Episode 2 carries over the first episode's drama and heightens it further, making every choice feel fraught with consequences. While there is still plenty more to go before Life is Strange is over, it is already shaping up to be an important game in its genre, though to be truly memorable its core gameplay mechanic will need a little more variety.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Continues to Impress in the Story Department

The main appeal of Life Is Strange is its intriguing story. As photography student Max, the player navigates the prestigious Blackwell Academy and all its young-adult melodrama. The game isn't afraid to delve into heavy realities, including bullying, sexual violence, and drug use, and it doesn't pull any punches in the latest episode, either.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Screenshot
Relationships and interpersonal drama are at the heart of Life Is Strange Episode 2.

Though things were intense in episode one, Life Is Strange Episode 2 takes it to an entirely new level. Over the course of the second episode, you'll save more than one life and make choices so difficult that no option seems like the right one. The tension in Episode One is turned up to eleven for Episode Two. Without spoiling anything, the issues the game explores are deep and frightening. DONTNOD doesn't stay away from tackling difficult topics, and its willingness to dive into complex issues despite potential backlash is admirable. While it might seem overdramatic at times, it's important to remember that, ignoring the time travel, Life Is Strange is a realistic game—there are no aliens to fight, no zombies to slay, and the interpersonal drama of Blackwell's students is real and important to the game's characters.

Max's lack of power in the first episode is made more obvious in Episode 2. Out of Time weaves together the decisions you made in the first episode into complex new problems, making decisions more difficult and fraught with tension. The problems are bigger, the decisions carry more responsibility, and Max's ability to rewind time begins to take a physical toll. Though you can see where the game is headed, it's not the big looming threat of catastrophe that keeps you going; it's the interpersonal drama between flawed characters that makes you strive for success. You want to help them, but are unable to do it all. It's these choices that carry the most weight, as tending to one friend in need may sacrifice the friendship of another.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Screenshot
Awkward dialog strikes again in Life Is Strange Episode 2 as teenagers struggle to sound like teenagers thanks to silly writing.

Unfortunately, the awkward dialog returns in Life Is Strange: Episode 2. It's not all bad—just like Episode One, there are some moments of genuine profundity among the "hella" and "smoke out" talk, but the occasional misplaced slang words still manage to ruin the drama of some important moments. In a game so driven by atmosphere, the hackneyed slang draws attention away from the story and characterization in a painful way.

Time Travel Mechanic Falls Flat in Life Is Strange Episode 2's Bland Puzzles 

While the story grows more complex and engrossing, the gameplay goes a little stagnant. Time travel should allow for some interesting puzzles and sequences, but in Life Is Strange: Episode 2 the player is faced with a boring fetch quest and a puzzle that requires no skill beyond memory. While both of these examples allow you to find out more about the story—learning more about your former best friend by analyzing the items in her pocket and exploring her junkyard lair to find out more about her friendships—they are more tedious than engaging. They force the player to explore and consider, but from a game with such strong writing, players expect more.

Art and Color Leaves a Lasting Impression in Life Is Strange Episode 2

The art style remains as beautiful as it was in Episode One, as if the player is looking at the city of Arcadia Bay through a carefully selected Instagram filter. It suits the feeling of nostalgia and adolescence perfectly, and the combination of Max's interest in photography, the artfully framed shots, and the slow, comfortable moments between Max and Chloe feel very much like a playable scrapbook of a teenager's life.

Life Is Strange Episode 2 Screenshot
Beautiful art direction in Life Is Strange Episode 2 continues to make the game feel like a hazy, nostalgic look back - an appropriate style for a game about time travel.

While Life Is Strange: Episode 2 may not have been a complete step forward from Episode One, there is still plenty of promise for upcoming episodes. As the drama increases, there's bound to be more fallout, and a crucial decision at the end of Episode 2 could have potentially devastating consequences for many of the game's key characters. 

Life Is Strange remains an excellent game for those who like choice and consequence games, though the gameplay in the second episode is a little lackluster. As seemingly small choices you made in Episode One come back to haunt you—such as the decision to erase something on a white board or little comments you might make—you get the sense that your choices really matter in a way they don't in many other games that include choices. This is Max's life, and though she may rewind and change it, the choices she makes will still impact the way the story goes.

Life Is Strange: Episode 2 – Out of Time is available now for $4.99.

Our Rating:

4 star out of 5 (Excellent)
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