- Alex Chen
- Good balance between heavy and airy
- Graphic imperfections
I stare blankly at the credits. This was it. I got to know you better and built up a very intense bond with you in a short period of time, but now I’m saying goodbye. It’s not often that a main character feels like a dear friend I really care about. Deck Nine worked it out with you. Alex Chen, what have you done to me?!
Life is Strange picks up the thread non-episodic this time. In the new part, subtitled True Colors, we get to experience a part of Alex Chen’s life in five fully included episodes. After being separated from her brother Gabe for several years, there is contact again. Alex visits him in the valley village of Haven, where his life is somewhat on track. Soon, brother and sister will part forever when disaster strikes.
The town of Haven is one of conviviality. We know us. Nobody cares about the local drunk. The record store also produces local radio and the bartender is the friendly village father who looks after his neighbor. A warm bath for both Alex and the player, who gets the opportunity to meet everyone calmly and take it into their hearts. In the run-up to this part, there was talk of an open world. This may be true on a definition level, but it only consists of a few locations where you can walk in freely and unannounced. These can be counted on one hand. The game world may be small, the design is beautiful and the scale quickly ensures that you as a player also belong in Haven.
As in all previous parts, this game is not only about the main character, but also about the accompanying gift, with which he can radically change lives. Alex Chen is able to see and read other people’s emotions as colored auras. This replaces the outward show with inner struggle. An emotion that is too strong can lead to Alex taking over and actually experiencing and seeing the world as the other person sees it. Call it supernatural empathy. Where major consequences are shown for Alex in the beginning, these are often left behind later. The gift is used less for building tense elements, but more as a means to deepen characters and set things in motion.
Just like in previous parts, the game again contains some heavy topics that you have to go through. This time the alternation between lighter and heavier moments is well balanced. Yes, themes are touched that can sometimes come very close, but in the meantime you are also busy building your life in a new environment. Especially halfway through the game, almost a full chapter is set aside for a light-hearted variety that puts the heavier fare in the background for a while. It ensures that people not only stand on your heart but also penetrate it.
The pacing of True Colors is a bit slower across the board anyway. Impactful matters are given the stillness they deserve and space is also taken and offered to just stand still now and then. The camera work is occasionally close to the skin, where the facial animations speak volumes. There is just as much attention to details and the inner feeling as to the events. A big compliment also for the facial animation. An empathetic player doesn’t need superpowers to see how the characters feel. Also the cliffhangers do not contain the big shock that previous parts had. They don’t have to keep players busy for months until the new episode comes out.
The game is short, after ten hours you have probably seen the end and the credits roll into your living room. It’s ten hours that you get through with varying emotions, but you do get to meet one of the most penetrating female characters I’ve got to know in my hobby: Alex Chen. The story stands or falls with your affection for her and her life. This is a big risk in storytelling. Where Maxime had Chloë and the brothers Diaz took a journey, Alex remains searching for her life within a small village community. It’s amazing that an awkward and overused smile and over-the-top craziness couldn’t detract from the connection I felt with her.
That bond is necessary because the story in terms of events only gets into a higher gear late. Also, most of the choices you have to make are not earth-shattering and usually do not follow the impact that previous parts presented to us. In fact, some of the choices felt very forced. Not because the developer wanted you to choose this, but because it suited Alex better. Furthermore, it is still to be said that the game was not fully optimized graphically. Some textures loaded later and a few times a small green/black area appeared briefly on the screen. I would also like to note that the game was played on an Xbox Series S.
In short: Life is Strange chooses a more personal story with True Colors and this makes not the story course but the character memorable. Alex Chen comes very close. A daring step that works out very well and elevates this part above the original despite its short duration.