By Kevin Kennedy
Going into Life is Strange Episode Two, I had high expectations. Episode one set up an interesting twist on the episodic, story-driven game, with its mix of real-world drama and time travel twists. To temper my enthusiasm, though, I had doubts. After all, the second volume of a five-part series often suffers from a lack of action, existing mainly to set up a greater plot. Ultimately, the play through showed me that this piece of the game was neither as great as I thought it could be, nor as awful as some “chapter two”s end up. It was an enjoyable, though somewhat flawed, episode, with a couple hiccups that could have been easily avoided.
First off, the story and characters don’t disappoint. If you liked the dialogue and characters from volume one, you’ll still enjoy them here. I did think the “Kate starred in a viral video she’s ashamed of” plot came on a little fast and strong, since no one mentioned it in volume one, but it worked well and led to a good payoff. I’m really starting to fear for Chloe, though she still seems a bit unlikeable at times.
There are moments of this game that shine, like the rooftop scene with Kate or the scene where Max must impress Chloe with her ability to predict the future. What I think is interesting is that each of these is successful for a different reason. The scene with Chloe succeeds because it harnesses the time-travel mechanic well, and offers a bit of fun. The scene with Kate succeeds because of the heightened emotions and sense of powerlessness that comes with it. When the scene is well underway, its clear that its going to be difficult to get to a good resolution, but that is what drives the player forward.
Unfortunately, to go along with these two great scenes is my least favorite part of the game so far: the junkyard. Midway through the episode, Max is tasked with finding five bottles amidst a heap of junk. The search for some of these bottles leads to important discoveries about characters, but most of them are just hard to find, with Max giving occasional vague clues as to their whereabouts. I found this scene immensely frustrating, and it is by far the low point of the episode, reminding me of some of the worst adventure games of the past.
Ultimately, I think that this episode is a fun continuation of the story that the first episode introduced, and its low points are greatly overshadowed by the wealth of character personality and great story and gameplay mechanics. I’m excited to see where the story goes from here, and I really wish Episode Three weren’t a month away.
Life is Strange, Episode Two is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam.